Game Notes: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals

Matt Barkley
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Matt Barkley throws during the first half of the team's NFL preseason football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

Television: The game will air on the Bengals Preseason TV Network, led by Cincinnati flagship station WKRC-TV (CBS Channel 12). Broadcasters are Mike Watts (play-by-play), Anthony Munoz (analyst) and Mike Valpredo (sideline reporter). The network also includes WKEF-TV (ABC Ch. 22) in Dayton, WSYXTV (ABC Ch. 6) in Columbus, WLIO-TV (FOX Ch. 8.2) in Lima, WDKY-TV FOX Ch. 56) in Lexington, Ky. and WDRB-TV (FOX Ch. 41) in Louisville, Ky.

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

Setting the scene: The Bengals wrap up the 2018 preseason on Thursday night when the Indianapolis Colts visit Paul Brown Stadium for the teams' annual clash in the preseason finale. But this season's matchup comes with a twist, as the Bengals and Colts will meet again 10 days later in Indianapolis in the regular-season opener.

Both teams will look much different come Sept. 9 of course, but as is usually the case, Thursday's matchup will feature position battles that will go a long way in deciding just how different they will be. And with a roster that on opening day will likely be the youngest in Marvin Lewis' 16-year tenure, the Bengals figure to seize the opportunity to offer their young players valuable game experience.

Perhaps nowhere has the focus of Bengals observers been more concentrated this offseason than on the offensive line, which has undergone both coaching and personnel changes since the end of last season. Heading into Thursday's game, a number of spots are thought to still be available.

 "We feel pretty good about where things are on the O-line," Lewis said. "There has been a lot of progress made, and the new guys will continue to work and grind. (In terms of) the things we are doing, there are many things showing up the right way."

Another area that figures to draw attention is WR, Cincinnati's youngest position group. After the Bengals released veteran Brandon LaFell (31 years old) on Aug. 2, seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green (30) became the oldest WR on the roster. The next-oldest is Alex Erickson (25), who, along with Cody Core (24), Auden Tate (21) and a group of other WRs yet to hit the quarter-century mark, are looking to solidify roster spots Thursday against the Colts. Heading into the 2018 regular season, Tyler Boyd (23), John Ross (22) and Josh Malone (22) are expected to be the primary contributors alongside Green.

The Bengals also are younger at defensive back, after the Aug. 19 release of veteran S George Iloka (28). That move bumped rookie Jessie Bates (21) into the No. 1 FS position.

"We feel very comfortable and confident in Jessie," Lewis said of his team's second-round draft choice. "As we expected, he has done a great job since he's been here."

The youth movement continues along the defensive line, with a group of four 23-year olds — DE Jordan Willis, DE Sam Hubbard, DT Andrew Billings and DE Carl Lawson — who are all expected to be regular contributors this season.

The Bengals enter the Colts game with a 3-0 preseason record and are coming off an impressive performance last Sunday at Buffalo. Cincinnati's starters played most of the first half and led the Bengals to a 20-0 halftime lead, before the reserves finished off the job in the 26-13 victory.

There were fireworks for Cincinnati early, when QB Andy Dalton hit Ross for a 57-yard TD on the offense's first play of the game. Dalton then added a TD pass to Green two possessions later, before finishing the game before halftime with a nearly perfect 145.8 passer rating.

On defense, the starters were dominant, holding the Bills to just 76 total yards in the first half, including minus-five yards passing. The defensive line played particularly well, totaling five first-half sacks, including 2.5 from DE Carl Lawson and 1.5 from DT Andrew Billings.

The Colts enter Thursday's game with 2-1 preseason record after recording a 23-17 win vs. San Francisco last week.

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