Skip to main content

What to watch for: Packers vs. Bengals

Key elements of all three phases will figure prominently in preseason opener


CINCINNATI – The preseason opener has arrived, with the Packers visiting the Bengals at Paycor Stadium.

Here's what to watch for Friday night.

Packers' starting offense: Jordan Love & Co. are expected to play, though how much hasn't been divulged. Head Coach Matt LaFleur didn't even rule out veteran left tackle David Bakhtiari, whose practice time has been limited throughout camp, taking some snaps. It's a major departure from LaFleur's first four seasons, but it reflects just how young the Packers are on offense, with not only a new starting quarterback but also a cadre of receivers and tight ends who are either rookies or second-year pros.

Safety rotation: Rudy Ford was working alongside Darnell Savage for the first week of camp, but lately it's been Jonathan Owens. Tarvarius Moore is an experienced safety in the mix, too. Even if Savage plays, it won't be much as the evaluation of the others moves forward.

Local stars making their debuts: Rookie draft picks Sean Clifford and Carrington Valentine were Cincinnati-area high school stars whose NFL preseason debuts just happen to be in their hometown. Clifford was elevated to the No. 2 QB spot last week with the release of Danny Etling, while Valentine has taken Jaire Alexander's reps with the first-team defense when Alexander has sat out.

Receiver competition: Late 2022 signee Bo Melton and undrafted rookie Malik Heath have been standouts in practice, making noteworthy plays on a daily basis. They'll look to carry over that production into the preseason games in their respective bids to make the 53-man roster.

Moving parts on special teams: Rookie kicker Anders Carlson headlines the special-teams intrigue, but the Packers also are conducting competitions at punter and long snapper. Both of those duels feature veterans (Pat O'Donnell, Matt Orzech) against undrafted youngsters (Daniel Whelan, Broughton Hatcher). Rookie second-round draft pick Jayden Reed also will likely make his NFL debut as a return man, as he's taken reps on both punts and kickoffs in practice.

Related Content