NFL

W2L4: Many Starters Expected To Get Their Only Preseason Look As Bengals Visit Falcons

Bengals (0-1, preseason) at Falcons (1-0, preseason) Friday, Aug. 18 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Field Turf), 7:30 p.m. ET, TV: Bengals Preseason Network Ch. 12 WKRC-TV (Cincinnati) Mike Watts, Anthony Munoz, Marisa Contipelli. Radio: Dan Hoard, Dave Lapham. WEBN-FM (102.7 FM), ESPN1530

Now would be as good a time as any to start cleaning up the mistakes and put forward a representative effort as the Bengals travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in the second preseason game.

Many starters are expected to play as the Bengals plan to do what many NFL teams do and use the penultimate game of the preseason to get their regulars some game action.

Last week, the Bengals managed to get into the red zone for precisely one play in a very rough offensive display. Cincinnati’s only touchdown came on defense when Tycen Anderson returned a Sean Clifford pass 43 yards for a score.

The offense simply has to be better. Trevor Siemian is expected to start the game at quarterback while Jake Browning will get the second half, swapping their roles from last Friday vs. the Packers.

Quarterback coach Dan Pitcher said Wednesday in the final practice before Friday’s game that both quarterbacks need to improve their consistency in play-making, especially downfield.

The Bengals hit the road for the first time since the AFC Championship in January when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons on Friday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Cincinnati enters the game 0-1 in preseason, after a 36-19 loss at home to Green Bay last Friday. While head coach Zac Taylor acknowledged the offense’s efficiency in putting together several extended drives, he felt the inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities proved to be the difference in the game.

“Offensively, we didn’t get the ball in the end zone at all,” Taylor said. “Kicked some field goals, had the defensive touchdown, but ultimately, that’s what we’re judged on — protecting the football and getting the team in the end zone. Not enough of that (last Friday).”

Defensively, the Bengals gave up 437 net yards (254 passing, 183 rushing), and allowed back-to-back Packers TD drives early in the first half that put Cincinnati behind 14-3. And while the offense certainly didn’t do its job in providing complementary football, the defense has areas to improve, like setting a better edge and not letting opposing running backs get to the outside and play keepaway.

The Bengals could start as many as ten regulars on defense, with only Chido Awuzie definitely out for the game.

Here’s what to look for:

  • When the Bengals have the ball:
  • Joe Burrow:
    Does the quarterback repeat on the road what he did last Friday at home and come out three and a half hours early to get in some tosses and do some jogging on the field? If he does, then the projection that he is on schedule for the opener Sept. 10 in Cleveland will continue. If he doesn’t, then questions will arise again as to where he is on his rehab from the strained right calf suffered on July 27, the second of 14 days so far of training camp practice.

    Trevor Siemian/Jake Browning: As mentioned above, these two battling for the backup job to Joe Burrow just have to start putting up numbers and send a message to everyone that they’re capable of at least managing the offense with great weapons around them if Burrow were to miss time. The first game against the Packers did not accomplish that as both quarterbacks finished with a 49.9 passer rating, combining to complete just 25-of-45 passes for 216 yards, no touchdowns and an interception apiece.

    Running backs: Chris Evans had a 33-yard run and a strong showing on special teams to make a case that he could still be of significant value to the Bengals on the 53-man roster. Rookie Chase Brown had several impressive moments and will get more chances to show he can handle pass protection. Trayveon Williams will miss the game as he nears a return from a sprained right ankle on the first day of padded practice while Joe Mixon is not expected to play after missing practice Wednesday to be at trial for aggravated menacing charges. He was acquitted on Thursday and the team released a statement supporting Mixon after the acquittal.

    Jackson Carman, Trey Hill: It was not a good night for Carman or Trey Hill, as they seemed out of sync with the quarterbacks, leading to protection breakdowns and scrambles. The starters may get their chance for a couple of series, including right guard Alex Cappa, who returned to practice on Wednesday. If the Bengals play it safe with Cappa, look for Cody Ford to get some extended run in the first half at right guard.

    Jessie Bates, Tre Flowers: It goes without saying there will be laughs galore before the game between the Bengals and their former free safety star for five years. Hopefully we get to see Bates come over on Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase or Tyler Boyd and play them in defense. But then again, it’s preseason. Bates signed a four-year, $64 million deal in free agency while Flowers signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with far less fanfare to be a nickel corner, a similar position to what he had in Cincinnati for the last year and a half.

  • When the Falcons have the ball:
  • Tycen Anderson: The second-year player out of Toledo couldn’t have hoped for a better return to football than last Friday against the Packers, picking off a pair of passes. What can he do for an encore?

    Starters How many play? Naturally there’s a fine line here. But no doubt Lou Anarumo would like to see his regulars get some game action before Sept. 10, though it’s not as much of a priority as it was a generation earlier. Mike Hilton declared after practice Wednesday that he will be starting for sure in his hometown.

    Falcons quarterbacks: Logan Woodside played the entire game last week in a 19-3 win at Miami. Desmond Ridder’s backup was 14-for-23 for 146 yards but no touchdowns or interceptions. Woodside, the seventh-round pick of the Bengals in 2018, managed the game and drove the Falcons 68 yards for their only offensive touchdown of the night in the first half. Ridder should play a good portion of the first half Friday night.

  • Bottom Line:
  • This is a big game for the backup quarterback position. Both Trevor Siemian and Jake Browning need to put up productive drives and show they have complete command of all aspects of the offense. The one thing that’s been most glaring in camp is the lack of timing between quarterbacks and receivers, which has been the byproduct of off-the-mark passes or failing to get the ball out on time. Both Siemian and Browning should be good for at least one solid drive each.

    Bengals 20, Falcons 16

    Mike Petraglia

    Joined CLNS Media in 2017. Covered Boston sports as a radio broadcaster, reporter, columnist and TV and video talent since 1993. Covered Boston Red Sox for MLB.com from 2000-2007 and the New England Patriots for ESPN Radio, WBZ-AM, SiriusXM, WEEI, WEEI.com and CLNS since 1993. Featured columnist for the Boston Celtics on CelticsBlog.

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