Green Bay Packers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview
The Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals go to work tonight in week three of the 2012 NFL preseason. Thursday Night Football has Aaron Rodgers and A.J. Green gracing the field, and should be an interesting battle in the first half.
Beyond that, there are plenty of position battles and young guys trying to earn roles that are worth keeping an eye on. Overall, I’ve found five good reasons to tune into tonight’s preseason matchup:
1. One More Glimpe at Green Bay’s Offense
One more glimpse for us, and one more chance for Aaron Rodgers and co. to get the feeling right. First team units generally don’t play much (if at all) in the fourth preseason game, while they do usually play deep into the third game. The Packers haven’t looked quite like themselves through the first two weeks, and if it weren’t for a nice Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson touchdown connection last week, I might actually be worried.
I’m not really concerned anymore, so much as I just want to see the offense on track. They have a brutal season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, and they really need to be clicking for anyone to feel great about that matchup. Getting a healthy Greg Jennings back (concussion) should help the flow of the offense, although we won’t be seeing tight end Jermichael Finley (personal).
2. Brian Leonard Ball Again
Not that you should be sitting on the edge of your seat to watch Leonard start at running back for the Bengals this week, but it’s worth noting that both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott will miss tonight’s preseason game. The Law Firm is nursing a toe injury, and Scott, who hasn’t made a single preseason appearance yet, is still sidelined with a hand injury. Leonard is usually relegated to third down duty during the regular season, so it’s nice to see him getting a decent load as the top back during the preseason. He didn’t look great last week and lost a fumble, but he’ll get another chance to prove he could be capable of a few more early down and/or goal-line carries. Whether or not he succeeds, it would also be cool to see his coined “Leonard Leap”.
3. Cedric Benson’s Debut
It’s only appropriate that Cedric Benson’s first game with the Packers is against the last team he played for. There are two story-lines working here. First, we all want to see just how effective Benson can be in Green Bay’s backfield, as well as what kind of a role he’ll be preparing for. Secondly, and equally as interesting, we get to watch Benson try to inflict some pain on his former organization after they didn’t try to bring him back. Benson may not be an explosive or versatile back, but he’s a hard runner and he’s been pretty productive. He’ll try to prove tonight that he can still be a starter and difference-maker at the position.
In addition to Benson, I want to see more out of the other Green Bay running backs. Alex Green is versatile and has shown explosiveness, but I’d like to see more out of him. James Starks is even possibly on the roster bubble after a weak camp, so a quality showing in this game could be the difference between a roster spot or the waiver wire for him.
4. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green
Dalton is showing improved arm strength in camp and preseason, and last week he aired it out several times. It was almost like he was just doing it to show he could do it, but one of his launches actually resulted in a beautiful 50-yard touchdown to A.J. Green. Dalton is a fairly mediocre talent, but he really works well with Green and the two have developed quite the rapport. They’re fun to watch, but on top of that, it will be interesting to see if they can keep that momentum going.
5. Bengals Wide Receivers
Green is a stud, but beyond him there are a ton of question marks at wide receiver. Brandon Tate and Armon Binns are front-runners to start right now, and that’s just utterly depressing. In an ideal world, rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones would prove their worth enough in this contest to earn the number two and number three spot. Jones is raw, but has shown nice play-making ability in spurts, while Sanu is a solid possession receiver with a ton of upside. Unfortunately, neither has really stepped up their game consistently yet. Jones could even be in danger of getting cut, while Sanu isn’t guaranteed any kind of a role presently.