It as an arduous process following Cincinnati's disastrous loss to the Houston Texans. Coaches visiting with other teams, interviewed during a process that strung out uncertainty. Later the team was tasked with franchising a player in February, choosing which restricted free agents to tender and the expiring veteran contracts to renew. It was the predraft process heading into late April, the NFL draft and the undrafted free agents that the Bengals signed after the draft. It was the offseason workouts, training camp and then preseason, culminating with tonight's preseason finale against the Indianapolis Colts.
It was somewhat painful to watch for passive Bengals fans, as the game was largely dominated by talent evaluation for bubble players putting together their final audition for deeper roster battles. Or at the very least putting themselves on film for another team. A.J. Green may have participated during two offensive snaps, while Andy Dalton suffered a scary arm bruise that shouldn't keep him out against the Baltimore Ravens.
With the preseason now over, the Cincinnati Bengals will reduce their roster on Friday to the 53-man maximum. A couple of notes from Cincinnati's 20-16 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
- Amazing job by rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones during Cincinnati's touchdown drive early in the second quarter. Sanu stretched out like a Kevin Durant slam dunk, hauling a Bruce Gradkowski fastball and converting the fourth. Several players later Marvin Jones recovered from an earlier drop, catching in a well-placed Gradkowski pass to his back shoulder, tip-toeing down the sidelines for the touchdown.
- During Cincinnati's first possession of the game, Brian Leonard was dicing through massive games in running lanes, picking up 27 yards on three carries.
- Both rookies continued with significant production Thursday, generating a combined 12 receptions for 119 yards receiving and a touchdown.
- Less than ten minutes remaining in the second quarter, linebacker Vontaze Burfict ran a stunt with Devon Still. Burfict fought Mike Tepper's block (offensive lineman) and buried rookie Chandler Harnish with a little icing from Devon Still, forcing the Colts to punt from their own four-yard line.
- Cincinnati's second-team defense late in the second-quarter took the possession off, with tight end Andre Smith finding a gap in the zone, Kris Adams out-playing T.J. Heath and an all-too easy touchdown by Deji Karim for a seven-yard touchdown to reduce Cincinnati's lead to 10-7. Not impressed.
- Early in the fourth quarter, Dan Herron squeezed through the line of scrimmage to get a hand on a punt out of the Colts end zone. Herron was subsequently called for an offsides. Later Herron fumbled the football that resulted in a Colts touchdown. Not impressed.
- Ryan Whalen didn't post a single reception during the first three preseason games. Against the Colts, he generated four receptions for 41 yards receiving.
- Working towards a practice squad spot, DeQuin Evans fought through a block with over ten minutes remaining in the game to record a quarterback sack.
- With seven minutes remaining in the game, Dominique Jones was wide open on a pattern towards the right sidelines. The tight end avoided tackles by T.J. Heath and George Iloka for a 42-yard touchdown, giving the Colts a 20-16 lead.
- With less than seven minutes remaining, backup center Reggie Stephens snapped the football believing that the quarterback was under center. He was in shotgun. The Colts recovered the fumble. Thankfully Vaughn Meatoga stripped the football from running back Darren Evans on the next play, which George Iloka recovered.
Back to the rookie wide receivers against Indianapolis:
ANDY DALTON LEAVES THE GAME: Some will argue that Andy Dalton shouldn't have started the game regardless. And for a moment there was a worst-fear scare during the opening moments against the Colts. With 10:42 remaining in the first quarter, Dalton was sandwiched between two pass rushers; his throwing arm collided with a defender. He appeared fine with what the team is calling a bruised arm, but he was quickly replaced with backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
STARTERS QUICKLY OUT: During Indianapolis' second possession, the Bengals had already taken out most of their starters in the secondary leaving a crew of Chris Lewis-Harris and T.J. Heath at cornerback with Taylor Mays and Reggie Miles at safety. During Cincinnati's second offensive possession, the entire second-team offense took over.
TEAM CAPTAINS: Andrew Hawkins, Rey Maualuga, Andre Smith, Nate Clements, Brandon Tate
PREGAME INJURY: Adam Jones, Jason Allen and Dre Kirkpatrick sat on Thursday, meaning that none played a single preseason snaps. Also out Thursday were running backs Bernard Scott and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, linebackers Rey Maualuga and Emmanuel Lamur, tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive linemen Robert Geathers, Pat Sims, Carlos Dunlap and Nick Hayden.
STARTING LINEUP: Backup center/guard Trevor Robinson started in place of the injured Kyle Cook. Brian Leonard, Donald Lee, Jamaal Anderson and Roddrick Muckelroy also started the preseason finale.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Cincinnati Bengals have until Friday evening to reduce their roster to the 53 players.