CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Live NFL action will (finally) take place inside Paul Brown Stadium Friday night! After two weeks of training camp where the Bengals mostly hit one another, the Who-Deys set their sights on the New York Giants for preseason game number one.
Below is the top-five things to watch tonight inside PBS.
1. Who can provide pressure up front?
Last year it was no secret the front seven struggled to pressure the opposing quarterback. The Bengals finished dead last in total sacks last season with a total of 20. First year defensive coordinator Paul Guenther struggled to find a strong rotation that could consistently get in the backfield.
Hope returned when the team signed Michael Johnson back after a one-year hiatus in Tampa Bay. Fans throughout Bengal Country had a scare when Johnson went down early in camp with a MCL sprain. The defensive end is expected to miss most (if not all) the preseason and hopefully be back week one against the Raiders.
Johnson's injury has opened the door for previous high-round drafts picks to show their potential. Defensive ends Will Clarke (third round) and Margus Hunt (second round) as well as defensive tackles Devon Still (second round) and Marcus Hardison (fourth round) will have chances to shine in Johnson's absence.
Last, reports from camp is Geno Atkins has returned to 2013 form after struggling to bounce back last season from his knee surgery. The Bengals defense has a chance to hit another level with a full-strength Atkins.
2. Wide receiver depth?
The Bengals depth at wide receiver was exposed at the end of last season. There wasn't a bigger example than the Wild Card Game against the Indianapolis Colts. Injuries decimated the receiving corps to the point that Giovani Bernard (8 catches, 46 yds), Ryan Hewitt (3 catches, 37 yds) and Rex Burkhead (3 catches, 34 yds) were Dalton's top receivers for the game. The Bengals will not be able to compete with the Brady, Manning, and Luck's or the world, with those players as the top targets.
The player that has gained attention of the coaching staff is seventh round pick Mario Alford. Alford's blazing speed, 4.27 40-yard dash, is the initial eye-opener, but the rookie has made some tough catches in traffic during camp.
The Bengals also brought in Greg Little, who has impressed in camp, and former Oakland Raider Denarius Moore.
Marvin Lewis voiced frustration in the middle of camp about Marvin Jones not finding the practice field. Since voicing the frustration, Jones seems to be back to near full speed. Jones and tight end Tyler Eifer, who was also injured most of last season, could provide the depth that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson thought he had last year.
3. Dre Kirkpatrick vs. Odell Beckham Jr.
As a rookie, Odell Beckham Jr. took the NFL by storm last season. He caught 91 passes, for a total 1,305 yards, 12 touchdowns and plenty of top play nominations on highlight shows. Bengals' third year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick hopes to explode on the scene just the same as his counterpart tonight.
Kirkpatrick has had arguably the most impressive camp this season. His length and coverage ability has led to him being in the hip pocket of most Bengal receivers. Beckham Jr. and Kirkpatrick have battled evenly throughout the split-squad practices this week.
4. Cornerback rotation
The cornerback battle has been interesting. The team's first depth chart lists Adam Jones and Kirkpatrick as the starting corners. Veteran Leon Hall and second-year former first round pick, Darqueze Dennard, are the primary back ups. Hall is expected to be the third corner in the nickel base defense.
The top four corners are all former first round picks. A talented group but a group with questions. Will Kirkpatrick be able to step in and be the shut down corner the coaching staff hopes him to be? Can Jones and Hall's skills be able to continue to fight off father time? And will Dennard be able to make the sophomore jump?
Friday night should begin to help answer those questions.
5. New toys at PBS
The Bengals will unveil the new renovations Friday night. A new LED video board and a hefty facelift to the concession stands on the concourses. Also, PBS' Wi-Fi system is complete and the Bengals say it will be one of the best systems.
Club Seat fans and Suite Holders will notice a new concept in community and lounge seating. The original lounge furniture has been replaced with modern lounge-style seating.