Bengals starters ready for final "dress rehearsal" with national audience

Published: Aug. 24, 2016 at 6:22 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2016 at 6:37 PM EDT
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A.J. Green (FOX19 NOW Photo/Jeremy Rauch)
A.J. Green (FOX19 NOW Photo/Jeremy Rauch)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Pre-season prime time doesn't exactly carry the same punch as any other prime time game, regular season or playoffs, but this Sunday night in Jacksonville is the Bengals first chance to show a national audience who they are in 2016.

"You know, I think having to go play on Sunday night, which I think is our third or fourth year in a row , it's a thing with a little bit different focus for the players," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said.

"It's the dress rehearsal because we play more," said Bengals Pro Bowl quarterback Andy Dalton. "We just need to make sure communicate well, move the ball offensively and look good as a unit."

In a small sample size, the first team offense has looked good in the first two preseason games. Dalton has completed 11 of 14 passes for 110 yards in four series. He's connected with rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd and veteran wideout Brandon Tate in the first two games, but this Sunday will be his first chance to throw to Brandon LaFell, who has been sidelined with a hand injury and is also among those battling for the two-spot at wide receiver.

"It's a positive for him to get an opportunity to play," said Lewis. "This will be good for him."

"We have a lot of talent," said Dalton. "Those guys are doing really good things. We'll find out come week one who the number two is going to be."

The defense should get a good test. Sports Illustrated's Peter King, senior editor of, wrote this week that Jacksonville was the most impressive team he saw on his NFL training camp tour. Many believe the Jaguars, led by starting QB Blake Bortles in his third season, could be a contender in the AFC South.

"It's about getting more reps so I can hit September 11th rolling," said Bengals Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap. "I feel like I'm in great shape, but we haven't played a full game yet, so this will be good test for us."

"It's like any Sunday," Bengals safety George Iloka said. "We're treating this like a real game, in terms of game planning. It's going to be the real deal for the starting defense."

It is likely the final dress rehearsal for the starters, who won't see the field again until the season opener in New York against the Jets on September 11.

"When you look up there, it's less than three weeks away, so we're getting ready for it," said Dalton. "It's big. The first game will set the tone for the season and shows everybody what this team is going to be. "

Fun facts:

-The Jags and Bengals are meeting for the first time in the pre-season

-The Bengals are 7-3 in ten pre-season prime time games under Marvin Lewis with a 2-1 record on SNF

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