Bengals Preseason Game 2: Keys to the Game

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In the Bengals preseason opener, tragedy struck early with guard, Travelle Wharton being lost for the year. It looks as though Jay Gruden will be sticking with Clint Boling as his starter who showed some flashes when plugged in with the first team last week. This week, Boling will face another daunting task by keeping Atlanta’s front defensive unit away from quarterback Andy Dalton. Also, be sure to keep an eye on Cincinnati’s other guard, rookie Kevin Zeitler as well as he continues to learn the speed of the game in the NFL. Last week, Zeitler had a decent game, but appeared to be manhandled from time to time against fellow rookie, Quinton Coples of the Jets.

Speaking on replacements due to injuries, two key faces on the defensive side of the ball to watch are middle linebackers Roddrick Muckelroy and Vontaze Burfict. Incumbent starting middle linebacker, Rey Maualuga will miss the game inAtlantaafter suffering a knee injury early on in the preseason opener. It will be interesting to see these two players plugged in with the first defensive unit and corresponding with their teammates on the field.

Another injury of note in game one was that of defensive end, Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap will be missing about four weeks and other members of this team will have to step up on the defensive line to avoid certain players being double-teamed. Michael Johnson showed a good amount of improvement in game one as it appears he has bulked up and is showing better technique. Rookies, Devon Still and Brandon Thompson will also need to step up and keep being disruptive in the middle of the line to help ease pressure on the defensive ends. Another player to watch is Jamaal Anderson. Anderson will be splitting time between defensive tackle and defensive end, but will probably get a few more snaps this week at the end position during the absence of Dunlap.

As it was mentioned last week, again, keep a keen eye on how quickly the Bengals offense can get started this week. Last week they started with a three-and-out, but bounced back to go on a 76-yard scoring drive on their second possession. Look for the offense to try to get out of the gate even faster this week after they now have had in-game experience together.

Another thing to watch this week is the offense’s efficiency in the red zone. Last week they were able to get inside the 5 yard line, but couldn’t punch it into the end zone on three different attempts and settled with a 22-yard field goal. Gruden could not have been happy with that outcome and the first-team offense should be out for redemption this week as they look to score their first touchdown of the preseason.