6 things to watch in Bengals-Lions preseason game

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Jay Morrison previews the second preseason game for the Bengals

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Next Game

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Detroit Lions

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Ford Field, Detroit

TV: Ch. 12, 22

Radio: 1530-AM, 102.7-FM

The Cincinnati Bengals will add to their most-played exhibition series when they make the short trip to Detroit to face the Lions for the 37th time in the franchise’s 49 preseasons.

And while fans still won’t see much of Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and the other Bengals starters, the first-team units will have bigger roles than the cameos they played last week in a 17-16 loss to the Vikings.

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Here are six things to watch Thursday night:

Starter snaps

In last year’s second preseason game at Tampa Bay, quarterback Andy Dalton and most of the offensive starters played seven series while logging 27 snaps (53 percent).

Don’t look for them to come anywhere close to that Thursday for a couple of reasons. The first is that last year was a bit of a fluke given that none of the first six series lasted more than four plays as three of them ended on turnovers — two Dalton interceptions and a Jeremy Hill fumble.

The other reason is that coach Marvin Lewis may be a little gun shy when it comes to leaving the starters in given the rash of injuries that has hit the team.

Look for both the offensive and defensive starters to play three or four series.

Erickson encore

Rookie wide receiver Alex Erickson was the star of last week's 17-16 loss to Minnesota, scoring both Bengals touchdowns on a 3-yard reception and an 80-yard punt return.

But consistency is the key for an undrafted player like Erickson if he wants to make the 53-man roster. With Mario Alford and Brandon LaFell unlikely to play and Jake Kumerow questionable, Erickson should see more than the two targets he got in the passing game last week.

He also should get a chance to return a few more punts with Alford, who had two returns last week, sidelined with an ankle injury.

Dalton to Boyd

Rookie second-round wide receiver Tyler Boyd played two snaps with Dalton last week and didn’t have a pass thrown his way. That should change tonight with Dalton expected to play longer and LaFell expected to miss his second consecutive game.

Boyd was targeted twice against the Vikings, both deep shots from AJ McCarron. The first fell incomplete, but Boyd hauled in the second for a 40-yard gain to set up Erickson’s touchdown.

Look for Dalton to deliver a couple of passes Boyd’s way against the Lions as the two try to further develop the chemistry that has seen the rookie receiver emerge as one of the most impressive performers during training camp.

Fisher flip

Second-year tackle Jake Fisher, who has spent most of training camp at left tackle, will slide over and start at right tackle for Cedric Ogbuehi, who is expected to miss two to three weeks.

Fisher talked about the difficulty of playing the same position on the opposite side of the line earlier this week, and it will be worth watching to see how he responds after having just one practice and one walk-through to get accustomed to right tackle.

Hardison havoc

Defensive tackle Marcus Hardison, a fourth-round pick in 2015, was one of the stars of the preseason a year ago with a performance that earned a spot on the 53-man roster, only to be inactive for all 16 games.

This year there appears to be a spot for Hardison on the 46-man gameday roster, especially in light of the Andrew Billings injury. Last week against Minnesota, Hardison had two plays where he literally tossed the player assigned to block him out of the way.

Hardison played a team-high 41 snaps (72 percent) last week, and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther raved about how physical he was.

Former friends

Two former Bengals players, and popular ones at that, will be going against their former teammates tonight. Wide receiver Marvin Jones and defensive end Wallace Gilberry signed with the Lions as free agents this offseason.

Jones and Bengals cornerback Adam Jones both possess the gift of gab, so it should be fun watching them go against each other like they did the last four years in practice.

Jones caught one pass for 16 yards on his only target of his Detroit debut last week, a 30-17 win at Pittsburgh. Gilberry started at left defensive end and played 14 snaps without registering a tackle.