The Cincinnati Bengals come to Detroit for their first post-lockout preseason game. The speed dating pace of free agency and the rather surreal offseason might leave many with a sense that they are watching the UFL.
It’s the “Who are these guys?” season.
The Bengals crashed hard in 2010 and continued their free-fall in the offseason. The Carson Palmer vs. Mike Brown soap opera has yet to play out to its Kabuki theater-like sad ending.
But the Bengals are showing signs of entering a “new era” under head coach Marvin Lewis. Many wanted Lewis’ head after the train wreck that was the 2010 season.
There is some must-see TV in this game stemming from some compelling storylines, so keep your pencils sharpened. NFL rosters are changing at such a fast pace that a player or two we’ve never heard of could play a prominent role.
It’s the smash-mouth AFC North against the pass-happy NFC North—a clash of cultures, if you will. The Bengals will unveil their new West Coast Offense against one of the fiercest pass-rushes in the league, The Silver Crush.
The WCO is a scheme that depends on stretching the field horizontally with short passes and a punishing running game; move the chains and eat the clock.
Can rookie franchise QB Andy Dalton get the ball out fast enough to beat the rush?
Can Bengals rookie phenom A.J. Green be happy in an offense that doesn't stretch the field?
Can the Lions' front seven neutralize the Bengals' running game powered by Cedric Benson?
The Bengals' defense has undergone some drastic changes. The loss of CB Johnathan Joseph in free agency still rankles.
Look for former SOLB Rey Maualuga in his more natural MLB position. The Bengals also drafted OLB Dontay Moch, a pass-rushing specialist, and added free agent OLB Manny Lawson.
The Bengals D-line is not too shabby either and is well-schooled in stopping the run as would be expected in the AFC North.
Look for the Bengals to dial up the blitz early and often.
The Lions' offense will look like a kamikaze raid as they send wave after wave of running backs, fullbacks and receivers crashing into the Bengals' defense.
RB Jahvid Best will get the start, followed by Aaron Brown, free agents Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell, and UDFA Ian Johnson. FBs Jerome Felton and Matt Clapp will get some looks as they compete for a roster spot.
Can the Lions find a running game? The Bengals' defense will be a good litmus test for Detriot.
WR Calvin Johnson might make a cameo appearance; a steady diet of Megatron is lethal.
Veteran WRs Nate Burleson, Derrick Williams and Stefan Logan will also be targeted. The Lions will also throw to free agents Rashied Davis and Maurice Stovall, followed by UDFAs Demario Ballard and Nate Hughes.
Detroit will play Matthew Stafford sparingly and will give most of the first-half snaps to Shaun Hill, who has been somewhat inconsistent in camp.
Drew Stanton and Zac Robinson will see most of the action in the second half.
The melodramatic retirement of QB Carson Palmer sent the Bengals shopping in the draft. Andy Dalton is being haled as the new face of the franchise.
Dalton is getting mixed reviews in camp, but has shown leadership and poise. He is expected to play the entire first half.
Behind Dalton is Bruce Gradkowski. Gradkowski is a journeyman QB who manages a game well enough to take on the starting role should Dalton falter.
Then we have former CMU star Dan LeFevour; fans would love to watch the Michigan native get some quality time. He’s the fourth QB on the depth chart, so don’t expect to see too much of him.
A universally accepted fact of life is that the Lions had to make some changes to the back seven.
They did so with a vengeance.
Fans and coaches will get a chance to evaluate the revamped Lions LB corps. Starting MLB Deandre Levy has been kicked outside, with the addition of wrecking ball Stephen Tulloch. Tulloch will patrol the middle while free agent Justin Durant takes the strong side.
Ashlee Palmer, Bobby Carpenter and rookie Doug Hogue are expected to see action as well.
At CB, The Lions added Eric Wright in free agency. Wright is expected to be a major upgrade to a position of major need. Fans should also keep an eye on Brandon McDonald and Nathan Vasher; both will see action.
At safety, Amari Spievey has matured into a solid player and will look good opposite Louis Delmas. John Wendling and newcomer Michael Johnson are expected to see extended duty.
With 90 players on the bloated training camp roster, who do you dress?
It will be interesting to see what spare parts get left behind when the coaching staff puts together a 45-man active roster.
Many of Detroit’s starters will not play. TE Brandon Pettigrew, OT Jeff Backus, OT Jason Fox (who took over for Backus), RB Maurice Morris, WR Titus Young, DT Andre Fluellen, CB Alphonso Smith, RB Mikel LeShoure and DT Nick Fairley are all out.
S Randy Phillips, CB Aaron Berry and OT Tony Ugoh are game-time decisions.
Without a roster at the ready, you will be saying “Who is that guy?”