Most of the core players and positions are known as the Bengals begin the preseason Friday against the Jets. In fact, 17 of the 22 base positions are filled by players who started or spent extensive time at the spot last year with Cincinnati.

The Bengals are much more a known quantity than in any recent years. They certainly aren't without questions and those come at key spots in the passing league the NFL has become.

Questions to be answered in exhibition season:

1. Can anybody help take the defensive focus off A.J. Green? The much publicized battle for the No. 2 WR position opens up a bigger question of inexperience opposite the Bengals' No. 1 wideout. None of those in competition to line up outside own more than 24 career receptions and Brandon Tate, entering his fourth season and with little receiver experience himself, is the old man in a room of rookies and unprovens. TE Jermaine Gresham will be counted on as the second option, but if anyone among Tate, Armon Binns, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins and Jordan Shipley can contribute will decide if the offense ascends or stagnates.

2. Have free agent and draft acquisitions improved the running game? Last year, the Bengals finished 27th in the NFL in rushing yards per play (3.91). Improving the run game became a clear point of emphasis in free agency as the they replaced guards Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams with Carolina veteran Travelle Wharton and first-round pick Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin). RB Cedric Benson was jettisoned for New England's reliable BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The preseason provides an important proving ground for the run game to show if it can help take the pressure off of QB Andy Dalton and Green as well as improve the team's 26th-ranked red-zone offense.

3. Will other teams pick on the Bengals safety position? When safety Chris Crocker was let go, the safety position beside Reggie Nelson was left open for a youth movement. The only question in Cincinnati is if any young players are capable of stepping into the position. Taylor Mays disappointed to the level he was traded to the Bengals one year after being selected in the second round by San Francisco. After a season of gradually earning playing time attempting to learn the playbook, Mays currently sits atop the depth chart. He's a freakish athlete, but his mental instincts are developing. If Mays becomes a target of quarterbacks, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer might consider moving cornerbacks Nate Clements or Jason Allen to the safety position.

Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates from training camp on Twitter at @CBSSportsNFLCIN .