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Bengals starters look great but depth is becoming a concern

The Cincinnati Bengals are having no issues with their first-team units during the preseason. Depth is another matter and it's starting to concern the coaching staff.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Ask a coach about the second half, and they'll grumble new profanities that planet Earth has never heard in her history. Ask a fan about the second half, and mythical checkbooks are open with Mike Brown's signature and an empty dollar amount... or at the very least, people demanding the release of Brandon Tate, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Rey Maualuga -- who would you hate then if we got rid of that trio?

According to Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, maybe everyone.

Cincinnati's defense wasn't "bad", they only allowed one touchdown in six second-half possessions (not including the one-play knee to end the game). And of those six possessions, only two generated a first down -- and only the touchdown drive picked up multiple first downs. However, the fact that the second-teamers allowed two touchdowns in the second quarter should be under intense fire.

"If there's some guys around here that think they've made the team, they're going to be shocked when this thing gets done, if they keep playing like they're playing now," Guenther said, via ESPN.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is pissed, and he should be. Penalties. Turnovers. Inefficiency. When Andy Dalton was in the game for the team's opening three possessions, the Bengals generated 173 yards, six first downs and 17 points. In the final ten possessions, the offense generated 115 yards, 10 first downs, and turned it over four times while also allowing a safety in the fourth quarter -- after Dalton left, the Bengals offense scored more points for the Jets than for themselves.

"We're at home, we're in front of our crowd and all of a sudden we're like we hadn't played after the 1s went out," Jackson said via ESPN. "It was like nobody practiced. So that was disappointing. That was very disappointing. It's against a good defense, and yeah, they left their guys out there, but so what? That's the National Football League. You've got to rise up and make plays."

Head coach Marvin Lewis, who still wants to win these games, was extremely concerned about the depth on the team.

"I realize it is a lot of young guys, but the development of this team has been because of developing depth," Lewis said. "We have to realize we are going to have players getting injured during the season and guys have to respond and be able to step up, and the standard of play cannot get lowered."

Thankfully the first-team, the one's, and the starters, played tremendously well. Mohamed Sanu is doing his part to step-up for the injured Marvin Jones. Even Cincinnati's offensive line was efficient, if not confident. Turnovers are the biggest concern.

"I thought (the offensive line) did a good job," said Jackson. "Obviously, Whitworth was in there with the number ones; I think Pollak was in there with the twos and I know he’s a battler, so it will be exciting to see the tape. Once we get (all) our guys back, we’ll be better, but again, we've turned the ball over for two weeks in a row and I don’t think you can do that and be a winning offensive unit, so we've got to fix it."

The real story is Andy Dalton.

"He’s on top of his game," said Lewis. "He’s throwing the football and understands what we want. Guys are doing a good job with him. He continues to play the way we think he should play all the time. It doesn't surprise me, because that’s the way he practices all the time. He doesn't have to be flashy; he just needs to be accurate and handle the offense. He does his thing very well."

"Andy (Dalton) has done well, and I've said that since training camp started," said Jackson. "He’s really taken over the offense and done a great job."

Cincinnati's depth will have time to develop and improve. However, you get the sense that the starting unit is ready to go. We'll see this weekend when the Bengals head to Arizona for a Sunday Night dress rehearsal against an old friend... Carson Palmer.