7 things to watch in Bengals-Redskins game

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates as he runs in for a touchdown during the NFL International Series Game between Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium on October 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates as he runs in for a touchdown during the NFL International Series Game between Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium on October 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

For the third time in four years the Cincinnati Bengals will play their “dress rehearsal” third preseason game on national television when they visit the Washington Redskins at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

The game, which will unofficially break the 27-27 tie the teams played to 301 days ago in London, likely will mark the last time the majority of the starters will play before the regular-season opener due to the quick turnaround for the preseason finale Thursday at Indianapolis.

The Bengals played Sunday night football in Week 3 of the preseason in 2014 (at Arizona) and 2016 (at Jacksonville). They also had nationally televised games in 2013 (at Atlanta) and 2015 (at Tampa Bay).

Here are seven things to watch in Sunday’s game at Washington:

Ross, at last

Coach Marvin Lewis continued to play coy on the topic of rookie first-round pick John Ross, saying Friday that “chances are he’ll step on the field.” All Lewis meant is Ross will travel with the team and go through pregame workouts, as he has the last two weeks despite not playing.

But Ross, who had offseason labrum surgery, has been a full participant in practice for two weeks and was "running" routes in the Friday walk-through. And he and several teammates intimated he will debut in Washington .

In addition to running routes and catching passes, the Bengals want to see what Ross can do as a punt returner, something he hasn’t looked completely comfortable doing in training camp.

“I’d like to see him in a preseason game to see how he reacts,” special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons. “It’s something he hasn’t done since his freshman year at Washington. It’s been a while.

“It’s very difficult to replicate games,” Simmons added. “The decision-making part of it, as I’ve stated a jillion times, is very, very, very important. Until they’re out there in the fire, it’s a scary proposition.”

Elusive end zone

The first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown in four drives this preseason despite driving into opposing territory three times and reaching the red zone twice.

Two of the four possessions resulted in field goals, but one ended with quarterback Andy Dalton throwing an interception at the 1-yard line and the other was derailed by a second-down sack, leading to a three-and-out.

›› Dalton, first-team offense have had success in past dress rehearsal games

“We haven’t converted some third downs, we had a dropped ball, but maybe the ball wasn’t where it was supposed to be location-wise,” Lewis said. “But believe me, other than one three-and-out series, we’ve been able to move the ball with those guys (first-team offense), which is important.”

Dalton said he expects to play the first half, which would give the group a handful of chances to get into the end zone.

Sack attack

One of the biggest keys to the season will be if left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and right tackle Jake Fisher can anchor a revamped offensive line a year after opponents sacked Dalton 41 times.

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Three of those sacks came in the 27-27 tie in London against a Redskins team that would finish tied for ninth in the NFL with 38 sacks. And the Washington pass rush got even better in April when the team drafted a pair of Alabama products in defensive lineman Jonathan Allen — a player many Bengals fans had hoped the team would take — and outside linebacker Ryan Anderson.

The first-team offensive line, which played the first half in each of the first two games, has allowed one sack. The Redskins have recorded nine sacks in their first two games.

Challenged corners

The Bengals have started Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson in the first two games in hopes of getting more chances to evaluate them and decide which will start the opener while Adam Jones is suspended.

But Tampa Bay and Kansas City utilized a quick, short passing attack that didn’t give Dennard and Jackson much of a test.

That shouldn’t be the case with Kirk Cousins and the Redskins receivers.

›› Bengals weighing options at safety with Williams out

“We haven’t seen a lot of 5- or 7-step drop so to speak,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “They have two more games to prove it. I don’t think Will has had a ball caught on him yet, but he hasn’t had much action.

“It’s not just the coverage, it’s the run support, it’s technique,” he added. “We have to decide who’s going to take that spot over in the first game.”

Trash talk

Speaking of the receiver-cornerback matchups, an interesting — and possibly explosive — one could occur if the Bengals elect to play Jones and he finds himself covering former teammate Terrelle Pryor.

Remember Jones’ postgame antics in Cleveland last year?

Jones repeatedly called Pryor, who had one catch for 3 yards, “garbage” and said he had no respect for him, then shook a trash can and said, “You in there?”

More Mixon

The starters are expected to play more, and Joe Mixon is not a starter. But that doesn’t mean Mixon won’t get more opportunities as well.

After an impressive debut against Tampa Bay, Mixon managed 16 yards on six rushes last week vs. Kansas City.

“It was different types of plays that we were running,” running backs coach Kyle Caskey said. “He didn’t get the chances he got in the first game to show off the versatility he has, the explosiveness. Those kind of games happen, especially in the preseason when there is no flow to anything.”

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It’s not as though Mixon needs more motivation, but he’ll get some nonetheless with former Oklahoma teammate Samaje Perine on the other sideline.

Perine, a fourth-round pick, actually had more carries and rushing touchdowns than Mixon last year. Mixon rushed 187 times for 1,274 yards and 10 TDs, while Perine rushed 196 times for 1,060 yards and 12 TDs.

Kicker competition

The battle for the job is still too close to call between Randy Bullock and Jake Elliott, so each swing of the leg could be the one that wins — or loses — the competition.

“Hopefully somebody will step to the forefront here,” Simmons said. “Fortunately for us we don’t have to make that decision for another couple of week, but we’re on the short road. We play Sunday and then turn around and play Thursday. There’s not a whole lot of practice next week. A lot of it’s going to be what they do in these last two games.”

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Bullock is 4 of 4 on field goals (54, 49, 47 and 26 yards) and hit his only extra-point attempt. Elliott is 3 of 3 on field goals (45, 32, 39) and also connected on his only PAT.

Next game

Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) vs. Washington Redskins (0-2)

When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Where; FedExField, Hyattsville, Md.

TV: Ch. 19, 45

Radio: 1530-AM, 102.7-FM, 104.7-FM