1. Backups and rookies: As is the case for virtually every NFL team this week, this first preseason game will be all about backups and rookies for the Bengals. Preseason openers are always one of the best chances for teams to take a look at the youngest and least experienced players on their roster, to see where they might fit when camp breaks. For that reason, expect starting quarterback Andy Dalton to come out after one or two series in the first quarter, and look for similar stars like A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard and Vontaze Burfict to have short nights as well. Rookies who could get regular playing time this season, like center Russell Bodine and cornerback Darqueze Dennard, likely will see extensive action. Given where he appears to rank on the depth chart at running back, veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis might get a few more opportunities than he has had in his past few preseason openers.
2. Schematic tweaks: Though the Bengals probably will come out with some of their most vanilla offensive and defensive plays, this still is an opportunity for the team to start applying some of the new principles recently promoted coordinators Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther are installing. Jackson is trying to get the Bengals' offense to play at a slightly faster tempo, and he is putting more of an emphasis on physical, aggressive and run-inspired play than the previous coordinator, Washington head coach Jay Gruden. Guenther is looking for more rotations along the defensive front and to create pressures his predecessor, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, didn't institute while he was in Cincinnati. Don't expect too many of either side's tweaks to make it into this game. But don't be surprised if you see defensive ends and tackles rotating to different spots on the line, or a little more no-huddle from the Bengals' offense.
3. Ball security: During his news conference Tuesday, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said there were two things he didn't want to be surprised by: ball security and tackling. He didn't want to get caught off guard by seeing turnovers and poor tackling technique. As was mentioned Wednesday morning, this game will mark one of the first times this camp the Bengals will have true game-speed contact with other players. So tackling certainly could be an issue. Ball security could, too. Aside from a couple of poor reads by backup quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Matt Scott, the Bengals haven't had many issues with interceptions during this camp. Fumbles have been a problem for rookie running back Jeremy Hill, who has had three balls hit the turf in camp after not dropping a single one during his two-year college career. Wide snaps also have been problematic for Bodine, who has sent balls sailing over Dalton's head, wide and to his feet. It hasn't been many, but it's been enough to catch Jackson's attention.