Tonight the Cincinnati Bengals will play their first NFL preseason game versus the Detroit Lions. Led by rookie QB Andy Dalton, the 2011 Bengals will be one of the younger teams in the NFL, and even preseason games are valuable for gaining experience and growing as NFL players. Here are some key match-ups to watch for tonight:
These two will likely face off for 1-2 series, and while its the preseason, it can prove as an indicator on how this match-up would be played in a regular season game. Toward the end of games, when the defense needs a stop, can the Bengals count on Hall to cover a receiver as good as Johnson for a critical series, or will they need to double team to help Hall? These are the kinds of little things that can be taken from a pres-season game.
In 3 seasons with Detroit, Avril has amassed 19 sacks, including 8.5 last season, and its no secret that Smith has struggled in pass protection in his 2 NFL seasons. It will be Smith’s first NFL preseason game, as he’s missed the past two preseasons due to foot injuries. Tonight will be a good test for Smith as he’ll have to block elite pass rushers such as Terrell Suggs and James Harrison within the division.
Bengals Interior Line vs. Ndamukong Suh
How will the Bengals look to attack the massive DT? Will they double team him or rely on one-on-one match-ups with Kyle Cook and Bobbie Williams to handle the all-pro DT? Cedric Benson gets his biggest gains on runs inside the tackles, so how effectively they block Suh will determine the Bengals’ success in the running game.
Andy Dalton vs. Gunther Cunningham
Dalton is a rookie entering his first live NFL game. Cunningham has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL for 12 years and is considered one of the best defensive minds in the game. In 2 seasons with Detroit as their defensive coordinator, his defenses have improved from 29th to 6th in total sacks in the NFL. With lockout canceling offseason workouts, we’ve already seen several coaches not holding back on defensive schemes, and Cunningham may do the same and bring the house on the rookie QB. How will Dalton fair against Cunningham’s blitz schemes, since he’s already struggled against Mike Zimmer’s schemes in practice?