We're sure you're already sick of all the stories about that guy who used to play for the Birds. The man is a superstar though, and he played a major role in Super Bowl XXXIX. We're talking of course about Dhani Jones, who signed with the Bengals in 2007 and has actually become a very capable middle linebacker on a stout defense.
Unlike the Jaguars last week, Cincinnati should provide somewhat of a test for Kevin Kolb and the offense. The Bengals' defense ranked as a top five unit overall last season, featuring a pair of excellent, young corners in Justin Joseph and Leon Hall who wouldn't mind putting the hype about Philly's own youngsters to rest. Something's gotta give.
The skill players aren't the only ones who will be tested. The Bengals front seven will give the Eagles' line all they can handle. DT Domata Peko is the catalyst up front. He and Tank Johnson will go after an interior that has plenty of question marks right now, including C Mike McGlynn who is making his second start of the preseason.
Jason Peters will be matched up one-on-one with DE Anwtan Odom, who was off to a flying start in '09 with 8 sacks before his season was cut short with an ACL injury. He's back on the field, but he seemed to be lacking burst in Hall of Fame game against Dallas.
The Bengals have also been using second year player Michael Johnson to wreak havoc from the linebacker position. Johnson, a 6'7" converted defensive end from Georgia Tech, doesn't seem like a good fit at first impression, but he plays very fast and had a pair of sacks in the Cowboys game. This will help us get a feel for where the offense is with their blitz pickups, especially in the backfield.
On defense, we'll be keeping an eye on the right cornerbacks. Whether it's Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens, Ellis Hobbs and company are in for some stiff competition. Even though both receivers are past their primes, and Carson Palmer may be as well, they're still quality veterans who can easily beat inferior competition.
Up front, Stewart Bradley and the Eagles' run D will have their hands full with fantasy football zombie Cedric Benson. Benson, not Palmer, has really become the focal point of the Bengals' offense, and he forms a nice little thunder-lightning combo with speedy Bernard Scott. Should be interesting to see how Bradley is moving around out there and if the linebackers can keep either ball carrier from reaching the secondary.
Also of note, we didn't get a chance to talk about it this week, but Michael Vick looked absolutely explosive against Jacksonville. He was playing within the offense, going through his progressions and checking down, but he also showcased that Houdini elusiveness. His 15-yard dash to the end zone may have looked easy, but the fact that he beat everybody to the pylon was downright impressive. He's back, and perhaps better than ever.
We'll also almost definitely have more opportunities to evaluate Nate Allen and the rest of the first string defense, who played all of six snaps last week. The starters are expected to play the entire first half, so even though it doesn't count, there should be some solid football tonight.