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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