INDIANAPOLIS — What to watch in Thursday's preseason finale (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Colts where the roof is open at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Not much. All the action is going to take place Friday when the Bengals have to make a move with 22 players to get down to the regular-season roster limit of 53.
Head coach Marvin Lewis is certainly playing it cautiously. It's believed middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) could have played Thursday but they won't. Also not playing are the backup cornerbacks that have barely practiced because of nagging muscle injuries, Adam Jones and Jason Allen.
There just don't seem to be many roster fights left. Rookie Vontaze Burfict and three-year veteran Roddrick Muckelroy cap their scrum to see who becomes the team's sixth and final linebacker after backups Dan Skuta and Vincent Rey, but other than that it looks the big decisions on Friday are going to come down to how many and not who.
Such as, how many offensive linemen do the Bengals keep now that veteran center Jeff Faine is in the fold and a new rule may allow them to put center Kyle Cook on injured reserve and bring him back in eight weeks?
The problem is teams can't designate that one player until Tuesday, which means the Bengals would have to carry Cook for four days and cut someone they might like to bring back if they don't lose him.
They usually keep nine offensive linemen, so Cook, so ever briefly, would join Faine, tackles Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Anthony Collins and Dennis Roland. There are also guards Clint Boling, Kevin Zeitler and Trevor Robinson. Would the Bengals want to bring back guard Otis Hudson or tackle Matthew O'Donnell if they put Cook on that list?
Defensive line is another puzzle with tackle Pat Sims (hamstring) believed going to the physically unable to perform list since he hasn't practiced yet and tackle Nick Hayden apparently suffering a significant injury. The Bengals usually keep nine, but with Sims and Dontay Moch (NFL suspension the first month) lurking later in the year, they could go with just eight in Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers, Michael Johnson, Jamaal Anderson, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Devon Still and Brandon Thompson.
That means they could go heavy at linebacker and keep both Burfict and Muckelroy, or maybe go with seven wide receivers. Even though Jones, Allen and rookie Dre Kirkpatrick have barely played, they look like they're the Nos. 4, 5, and 6 corners behind Leon Hall, Nate Clements and Terence Newman. The Bengals traditionally keep four safeties, so fifth-rounder George Iloka looks to be the favorite to join Reggie Nelson, Taylor Mays and Jeromy Miles.