Ohmygod, football is back, is the explosive vernacular among football fans this week. Then depression sets in... a realization of what preseason football really is. For starters and roster locks, it's about knocking the rust off and preparing for game situations -- while not getting hurt. For backups that need to make a case, it's possibly one of the most important moments in their lives. Yet for fans, preseason football carries a dual-sided emotion, rocketing themselves beyond the heavens with football-is-back enthusiasm, only to have the same fuel-depleted rocket pulled back to Earth.
Snap-decisions are being made already. Rosters are being finalized, despite a month separating the regular season opener. Jason Campell was awful... until he wasn't... and then he was again. Everyone that played on special teams coverage... gone. Cobi Hamilton destined for another season on the practice squad... if he improves. Let me see more Matt Scott. If you want to win preseason games, just play more Dane Sanzenbacher.
The important component is this: The Bengals first-team offense, which only played for a single possession, was very serviceable. It was expected to be basic; leaving the fun parts on Hue Jackson's desk at Paul Brown Stadium. The heart of Cincinnati's defense might have left to take on the head coaching job in Minnesota, but the soul of it remains. Individual matchups for the second-team units weren't as good. The defensive line seemed tired and easily moved aside in the second quarter. Despite one broken coverage on Travis Kelce's 69-yard touchdown, I really like this secondary -- especially if they're going to use Danieal Manning in Chris Crocker's old role.
At the end of the day, part I:
The $100-million quarterback (better than saying the $96 million quarterback that could earn $115 if he reaches incentives), completed his first three passes of the game, including a 53-yard bomb on Cincinnati's opening possession. Unfortunately, after a one-yard Giovani Bernard run, Dalton overthrew Tyler Eifert in the endzone on second down and was slightly off-target to Mohamed Sanu on third, forcing Mike Nugent to convert the field goal.
"I knew a lot of eyes would be on me after all the news this week, so it felt good to get out there and have things go pretty well, even though it was brief," said Dalton during halftime of Thursday's preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. "We hit a couple of passes to A.J, but of course we would have liked to have finished it off with a touchdown instead of a field goal."
Andy Dalton completed three of five passes for 71 yards. Difficult to judge a quarterback's performance in a preseason game, but nothing happened to make anyone think that Cincinnati is in trouble. In fact, the offense felt a little more coordinated during their first preseason possession, which is saying something. Dalton, thumbs up.
At the end of the day, part II:
Giovani Bernard touched the football four times for 19 yards (including a screen pass for nine yards receiving). Bernard appeared fresh, a little more bouncy and confident. This kid is going to have an explosive season. Speaking of running backs... if Rex Burkhead isn't this team's fourth running back, beating out BenJarvus Green-Ellis, then I can only conclude that the gentle tap from Mike Brown during Hard Knocks last year is more meaningful.
A few notes on defense:
- Robert Geathers... the ol' man recorded a sack and forced fumble that was recovered by Carlos Dunlap. Jason Campbell led Cincinnati's offense from the Chiefs' 12-yard line with a three-yard pass to Eifert and a nine-yard touchdown throw to Brandon Tate.
- Vontaze Burfict appeared to be in top form already -- did he even take the offseason off? Along with an opening-drive shove out of bounds that reduced Jamaal Charles to a one-yard catch, Burfict's balls-out approach disrupted Charles on the ensuing run, long enough for Domata Peko to drop Kansas City's running back shy of the first down.
- Good to see Leon Hall, who recorded Cincinnati's first tackle on defense, a Charles seven-yard run. His achilles felt good but he knows none of this matters until Baltimore. Take it easy.
- Dre Kirkpatrick shouldn't worry about a roster spot (at all), but it's good to see him bouncing back with a pick-six in the second quarter.
Special teams with special problems:
It became noticeable early that Darrin Simmon's special teams unit was struggling. Following Jason Campbell's nine-yard touchdown to Brandon Tate, padding Cincinnati's lead with over six minutes remaining in the first, Kansas City's Albert Wilson returned the ensuing kickoff 65 yards with a little help no a personal foul. Despite having the football on Cincinnati's 25-yard line, Kansas City only mustered a field goal.
With 56 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Kevin Huber punted the football 43 yards to Kansas City's 20-yard line. After a significant breakdown in Cincinnati's coverage team, DeAnthony Thomas returned a kickoff the punt 80 yards to tie the game at 10.
Touchdown taketh, touchdown giveth:
Let's say that the backup quarterback job should be up for competition. It just won't be. Matt Scott won't replace Hue Jackson's guy, though based on Thursday's game, there should be an opportunity. A.J. McCarron has a shoulder injury -- or as I like to call it... being "hurt" so that he isn't claimed off waivers next month. Hello, practice squad. Then again, Campbell hurt his arm so the competition might be there.
With 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter, following Thomas' 80-yard punt return for a touchdown that tied the game at 10, Jason Campbell grandmother'ed a pass that targeted Cobi Hamilton. Sean Smith easily fought through Hamilton for the interception and touchdown return. Campbell fought off a screwy shotgun snap from Russell Bodine on the ensuing possession, and thankfully threw the football into the sidelines (and avoiding an intentional grounding). After committing a false start, Campbell skipped the football over the middle that was nearly intercepted.
Then Scott comes around, completes 7 of 11 passes for 66 yards passing and two touchdowns. Scott added 68 yards rushing and at least three gallons of puke. That's how you make an impression.
The Preseason Sanzenbacher arrives:
Campbell eventually calmed down, completing a nice third down pass to Ryan Hewitt that sustained a late second quarter possession -- the veteran quarterback made a quick look and hit the hot read, which was Hewitt's quick out from the slot. A few plays later, under intense pressure, Campbell found preseason-favorite Dane Sanzenbacher for a 26-yard touchdown on the flip side of the two-minute warning. The ten-play drive went 81 yards with Campbell completing three of five passes for 53 yards -- 46 going to Sanzenbacher alone.
Bad Campbell... again:
There were times that Campbell looked serviceable but let's just say... he has some work to do. With 12:48 remaining in the third quarter, Campbell grandmother'ed another football towards the left sidelines, targeting Brandon Tate. Malcolm Bronson easily telegraphed the football and returned the interception 51 yards for the touchdowns. Chiefs take a 34-27 lead.
Much ado about Cincinnati's defense
Cincinnati's defense opened the game, playing a similar tune to last year's third-ranked squad. Even more impressive is Leon Hall making the first tackle of the game, during a seven-yard Jamaal Charles run through zone blocking off the left edge. Vontaze Burfict shutdown Charles in the passing game, reducing a quick one-reception with a gentle shove out of bounds. Burfict added a disruptive kamikaze through the line of scrimmage, holding Charles long enough for Domata Peko, in SERIOUS pursuit down the line of scrimmage. Falling one yard shy of a first-down, the Kansas City Chiefs are forced to punt.
In the end the Bengals defense (at least the portion where starters and role players played) only allowed six points in the first half --a pick-six on offense (from Jason Campbell) and a punt return for a touchdown accounted for 14 points. Then there was the 69-yard touchdown reception by former Bearcat Travis Kelce... but who is really counting on Lavelle Westbrooks at this point?
- James Wright touchdown reception... impressive.
- Russell Bodine's snaps... yesh.
- Quarterback Matt Scott is the Bengals leading rusher with 68 yards... including a 25-yarder.
- Hello Dontay Moch. Hello Margus Hunt?