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Preseason Week Two Preview

Week 2 of the preseason tells a lot about a football fan.

If you’re one to know that a game is scheduled and that it may or may not be on tv and that if it is on, you might check it out, then you’re a normal fan with more important things to do. Good for you.

If you’re a person that was aware that the preseason had started but you don’t know how far along it is, you’re a bandwagon fan who gives up on the season with a 4-4 record and no one but team owners really needs you hanging around in the first place.

If you watch the game with a notebook while you dvr it to watch again later on and you curse meaningless third-stringers strictly out of habit, then you’re like me. Come on in.

While you’re here, let me point you to some potential areas of interest.

First is that of the running backs. Starter Cedric Benson has looked good, but fumbled last week against New Orleans; a nice hard-running, fumble-free game would make lots of Bengal fans feel better about things.

The backup spot is a battle between the stockier free-agent pick-up Brian Leonard, and the explosive rookie Bernard Scott. While Leonard was ahead of Scott in the depth chart last week, the rookie has come on strong and could apply even more pressure with a solid showing against New England. The shifty DeDe Dorsey needs to maximize the limited snaps he is likely to see as he seems on the outside of the running-back derby at this point.

Also worth observing is the debut of rookie linebacker, Rey Maualuga, who sat out last week to rest a minor injury. Bengal fans have been itching to see the wild man hit someone, and reunite, side-by-side, with his old college teammate, Keith Rivers. It will also give less stringent fans the chance to learn the differences between Maualuga and fellow big-haired defenseman, Domata Peko—no one will blame you for mistaking the two in the preseason, but by Week 1, we all expect you to have it straightened out.

After Marvin Lewis publicly called out Chris Henry for dropping too many passes thus far, let’s all keep our eyes peeled to see if Slim can’t hang on to each pass he touches. Marvin said that he kept Henry in the game longer than usual last week in order to work on his inconsistencies. More setbacks and dropped passes, could make his remaining weeks of practice before the opener that much more gruesome.

Another one groveling in Marvin’s doghouse is current backup safety, Chinedum Ndukwe. Once a player battling veteran Roy Williams for a starting spot at strong safety, Ndukwe now needs to redeem himself in the coaches eyes in order to gain that sort of recognition again from the people in charge.

Franchise-tagged kicker Shayne Graham would ease the troubled minds of many if he could demonstrate some consistency after missing a chip-shot last week and also after reportedly having a shaky training camp. Graham is getting a one-year contract of the average salary of the top-five highest-paid kickers in the league; it’s time he start kicking like it.

The last thing to watch is how the second and third teams hold up against the Patriots’ backups. After watching the Bengals fall victim to a plague of injuries last season, fans and coaches alike know the importance of team depth. Cincinnati has been knocked early for their scrapheap of backups and they wilted in the second half in New Orleans. While the majority of this kind of cannon-fodder ultimately proves inconsequential, when a specific position is hit unusually hard, it’s these very grunts who can determine the difference between a wild-card birth and sulking at home for the winter. Teams like the Patriots have proven that Super Bowl victories can still be obtained with backups acting as stop gaps for decimated positions; receivers like Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell spring to mind as examples.

So if you are to tune in to the repugnant dross the NFL passes off as preseason football, even more magnified than usual with the absence of Carson Palmer and his mild high-ankle sprain —as opposed to the medium and hot flavors of high ankle sprains—then these points should entertain you without needing to resort to preseason gambling or expensive liquor, or both. Although that, I hear, can make for one hell of a preseason football party. You’re only young once, you know?

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