Cedric Benson toting the rock will be a familiar sight, but the rest of the Cincinnati Bengals offense will be brand new when the team takes the field in Detroit Friday night. Marvin Lewis and Jay Gruden get to take their new wheels out of the garage and see how it performs against the Lions.
Gone are Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. In their place, Andy Dalton, AJ Green, and Jerome Simpson will be running new coordinator Jay Gruden's West Coast offense. They'll be looking to improve an offense that ranked 20th overall in the NFL last season. The first unit led by Dalton should get more than just the customary one series tomorrow as the new pieces all look to get acquainted with one another during game conditions. Following Dalton, newcomer Bruce Gradkowski should finish out the first half while Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour battle for the third quarterback position during the second half.
Cedric Benson will get his carries tomorrow. With Bernard Scott out, Benson should see some extended time as well followed by undrafted free agent Jay Finley who has been impressive in camp thus far. Brian Leonard will also see time as the feature back as well as being lined up as a fullback with Benson.
Cincinnati fans are eager to get their first glimpse of the new dynamic duo, AJ Green and Jerome Simpson, who might not be burning up the Twitter timelines as much as their predecessors, but are certainly making headlines with their play. Andre Caldwell is doubtful tomorrow. Look for a heavy dose of Jordan Shipley along with some free agents working with Palmer and LeFevour in the second half.
On the offensive line, Andre Smith looks to have a successful first start. We'll also get our first look at newcomer Max Jean-Gilles at guard sometime in the first half tomorrow. The big question will be if they can keep the quarterbacks behind them upright against Ndamukong Suh and the vaunted Detroit Disassembly line.
On defense, coordinator Mike Zimmer has promised that the first teamers will be out there "till they get it right." With not nearly as many new faces, the focus will be on position battles.
If Carlos Dunlap is healthy, we'll be looking to see whether he or Robert Geathers is more effective coming off the end. On the other end, second year player Michael Johnson get his first crack at holding onto the starting spot vacated by Antwan Odom's departure.
The "new" linebacking corps features Rey Maualuga in the middle, flanked by Thomas Howard and Manny Lawson. How quickly have the newcomers picked up the system and how will they fare in pass coverage?
In the secondary, the marquis matchup will be Leon Hall versus Calvin Johnson, but we'll also be checking out Nate Clements first appearance in stripes. Reggie Nelson looks to calm the team's concern at safety with a good performance as well.
Training camp has been full of reports of great promise, but tomorrow it's time to "get loose" as Maualuga tweeted earlier. Bengal fans are anxious to see what this year's group has under the hood.
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