Bengals open the preseason with a dominant performance against the Falcons

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals opened the preseason with a dominant performance, further solidifying the team's depth on the roster. And there was some impressive performances.

It's the preseason. Applying what was seen on Thursday as a general prediction for the regular season is just a bad idea -- especially the first preseason game in August. It can lead to inconclusive assumptions, especially with the first-team units. Play that are called are more generic in nature and rarely are game plans designed to beat the opposition. Starters are pulled early, so finding a rhythm, or applying adjustments, never happens.

Yes, Andy Dalton completed only three of seven passes for 37 yards. His only possessions Thursday night led to punts, but the dreaded drive-killing penalties suffocated the offense. Yet, penalties were nothing compared to the absence of A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins, and Marvin Jones -- three of Dalton's favorite receivers.

+ That being said, the offense led by Josh Johnson was exciting. Every point scored during Cincinnati's 17-point second quarter was with Johnson at the helm. Most of us finally had a chance to witness his speed, elusiveness, and even his arm strength. Alright. He played against backup players, but he was leading the team with 60 yards rushing on only three carries by half-time with a passer rating of 104.7. If there's a discussion on the backup quarterback, we have to believe that those discussions are over.

Very impressive was Johnson's management of the two-minute drill to conclude the first half. A series of short runs with one long chuck to Whalen put Cincinnati inside the 10-yard line with over half-a-minute remaining. Even when Johnson gained a minimal three yards, he quickly ordered everyone to the line of scrimmage and immediately conducted the following play.

Johnson finished the game completing nine of 16 passes for 100 yards receiving and a touchdown.

And let's not completely disregard John Skelton. Though he only competed against players fighting to save their NFL careers, he still completed four of five passes for 72 yards passing and a touchdown for a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

+ Dane Sanzenbacher. Wow. Not only did Sanzenbacher look great from the slot, he returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. He added another 36-yard touchdown early in the fourth. A good training camp with Ryan Whalen, along with a good showing against the Falcons, will force Cincinnati's coaching staff to make a tough decision somewhere.

But you can't ignore the special teams impact that Sanzenbacher had. Will it be enough to replace Brandon Tate? His punt return is a good start. The team will split returns between Jones and whomever the team nominates, so at the very least, Sanzenbacher put Tate on notice.

+ Rey Maualuga had a couple of nice plays in coverage early on. During the second defensive series against Atlanta, Maualuga forced an incomplete and made an impressive open field tackle. We're not forgetting the general criticisms of Maualuga, but we're also open-minded enough to give praise where it's warranted. It's a good start. He's going to start for the Bengals. At least hope that he's a better player.

+ A second quarter interception gave Brandon Ghee bonus points in the battle for fifth cornerback.

Thankfully there's no real position battle between Ghee and Dre Kirkpatrick, who had several quality defensive efforts in coverage. The only battle between them will be playing time. Beyond that, Ghee is closer to solidifying his position on the 53-man roster.

Unfortunately Ghee left the game with a head injury; which, again, raises alarms about his durability.

+ J.K. Schaffer is a productive linebacker who led the team in stops against the Falcons on Thursday. Unfortunately the linebacker spot is loaded with players with Schaffer being on the wrong side of the numbers game.

+ Quinn Sharp won't make the 53-man roster as long as Mike Nugent is healthy. But he made the 47-yard third quarter conversion with ease.

+ Nice job by defensive tackle Devon Still to swat down a third down pass to force the Falcons to punt. That led to Sanzenbacher's 71-yard punt return for a touchdown on the following play.

+ We weren't able to watch everyone to get a full accounting of every player -- that'll come in the coming days. But give us your overall impressions and impressions on players that we didn't mention.

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