Falcons’ Holmes gets first start against Bengals

The matchup to watch in Thursday night’s Falcons-Bengals
preseason opener will be Atlanta right tackle Lamar Holmes against
Cincinnati defensive end Robert Geathers.

Holmes will start after Mike Johnson dislocated his left ankle
and broke his left leg in Tuesday’s practice. Johnson will have
surgery next week.

”It’s a terrible thing that happened with Mike,” Holmes said
Wednesday. ”Mike is a great guy and a great teammate. Mike helped
me a lot.

”It’s part of the game. Coaches tell you all the time, you’re
one play away from being a starter so you have to always prepare
like you are the starter. It’s something we have to do.”

Johnson played in every game, including one start, in 2012. He
entered training camp as the favorite to replace Tyson Clabo, who
signed with Miami after being released by Atlanta.

The injury leaves Atlanta with almost no experience at the
position.

Holmes played in only one game as a rookie last season after
missing training camp with a foot injury. Geathers, entering his
10th season, will be a tough test for such an inexperienced
player.

The matchup will help the Falcons determine if they need to look
for a veteran tackle. Falcons coach Mike Smith said he’s Holmes
(6-6, 333), a third-round pick from Southern Miss in 2012, can
handle the job.

”He’s a big, athletic tackle,” Smith said. ”That’s what you
want. There are very athletic pass rushers we’re going to face all
season long. That’s probably his strength. He’s very
athletic.”

Ryan Schraeder, an undrafted rookie from Valdosta State, will
play behind Holmes.

”You kind of have to keep your head down and move on and we’re
going to have to have some young guys step up,” said Falcons
quarterback Matt Ryan. ”That’s what it takes. Every team deals
with it. Every organization deals with it. I think our young guys
will do a good job.

”I think Lamar has done a really good job this camp and really
this offseason, too. He’s gotten himself into really good
shape.”

Smith said it’s too early to rule Johnson out for the season. He
said another offensive lineman will begin cross-training at right
tackle.

Most starters, including Ryan and Bengals quarterback Andy
Dalton, are expected to see only limited playing time.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he’ll be looking for players to
emerge in the game who are trying to win roster spots.

”We know who our quarterback is going to be, we know who most
of our skill guys are,” Lewis said after Wednesday’s light
practice.

”We know basically who the starting group is going to be so
you’re battling for guys to fit into new spots, special-teams wise.
You allow some attrition, some graduation every year, so we can
plug in some younger guys. We’re looking for those guys to step up
and play.”

The Bengals shared the practice fields with the Falcons on
Monday and Tuesday. The teams dodged the rain by holding separate
workouts in the Falcons’ indoor facility on Wednesday.

Lewis said the combined practices were a success.

”It’s been great,” Lewis said. ”The Falcons’ hospitality and
Mike’s organization, it’s been outstanding. It’s been real positive
work and productive work for us.”

Among players being held out with injuries Thursday night are
the two top receivers in the 2011 draft, Cincinnati’s A.J. Green
and Atlanta’s Julio Jones. Green remained in Cincinnati this week
to receive treatment for his bruised knee. Jones will be held out
with a tight hamstring.

Falcons outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (dislocated left
finger) and Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) also won’t
play.

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