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Lions Vs. Bengals: Previewing The Preseason Opener

(Sports Network) - The Cincinnati Bengals viewed Andy Dalton as both the present and the future at quarterback when they chose the former TCU star in the second round of this year's draft. The rookie gets his first chance to prove his new team right in Friday's 2011 preseason opener against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

With Carson Palmer at home hoping for a trade and owner Mike Brown stubbornly refusing to yield to the veteran signal-caller's demands, the Bengals have decided to turn the offense over to Dalton, the 35th overall pick in this past April's draft who amassed an outstanding 42-8 record in college. Head coach Marvin Lewis immediately installed the 23-year-old into the starter's role during training camp, and the team announced earlier in the week that Dalton will run with the first team in Friday's matchup.

Journeyman Bruce Gradkowski, signed to provide experienced insurance at the position just prior to camp, will then take over for Dalton, probably sometime in the second quarter. Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour are likely to take the majority of snaps under center after halftime.

Dalton is one of two rookies in Cincinnati's starting lineup, with highly- touted wide receiver A.J. Green joining the youngster on the first-team offense. The fourth overall selection of April's college selection process is expected to be the headliner of a new-look receiving corps that no longer contains six-time Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco, traded by the Bengals to New England in late July.

While the Bengals will be throwing their top draft choices right into the fire, Lions fans will have to wait a while to get a glimpse at a couple of their high-profile rookies. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Detroit's 2011 first-round pick, may miss the entire preseason after recently undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot, while second-rounder Mikel Leshoure sustained a season-ending Achilles tear in Monday's practice.

Leshoure had been slated to share carries with second-year speedster Jahvid Best in the Lions' backfield, and his absence creates a competition between veteran holdover Maurice Morris and free-agent pickups Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell, both of whom were signed by the club on Tuesday, for those duties.

Detroit does enter the preseason opener with its franchise quarterback healthy for a change, however. Former No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford has fully recovered from a shoulder injury that limited him to just three games last season and will be making his first appearance since getting hurt in a home loss to the New York Jets last November.

Stafford's stay may be a brief one, though. With the third-year triggerman having shown to be rather brittle in his brief pro career and both of Detroit's starting offensive tackles currently recovering from injuries, the Lions plan to limit his snaps on Friday.

Longtime left tackle Jeff Backus is out with a partially torn pectoral muscle and right-side regular Gosder Cherilus just recently resumed practicing after undergoing microfracture knee surgery last December.

These teams will be meeting for the first time in preseason play since 2008, when Detroit delivered a 27-10 victory in Cincinnati. The Bengals came out on top in the most recent regular-season clash, scoring a 23-13 home triumph in Week 13 of the 2009 season.

Cincinnati holds a slim 18-17 edge in the all-time preseason series.