Cincinnati's preseason opener is in the books.
After Hue Jackson's boisterous mannerisms went from explosive concern to approachable patience during joint practices with the Giants this week, Cincinnati's offensive coordinator should feel rather content with the first team offense after Cincinnati's 23-10 win on Friday. Dropped passes and turnovers during Tuesday's practice led Jackson to express relative frustration about the team's sloppiness.
"It showed us where we are," Jackson said on Tuesday after practice. "We've got a lot of work to do. There was a lot of good things too. The scoring zone was really good. But there were some things I know we can do better and we've got to get it done... There were a couple of times I thought, ‘Wow, what's going on here?'"
After visible improvement during Wednesday's session, Cincinnati's offense hit an impressive stride Friday night against a Giants' defense that appeared wholly unprepared. Andy Dalton was artistic during his lone series on offense, completing all three passes, including a three-yard touchdown to Mohamed Sanu, which gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. Tyler Eifert's terrific camp continued into the preseason, posting 30 yards receiving on two grabs Friday night, including an 18-yard in traffic.
Even defensive coordinator Paul Guenther should be please. Cincinnati's defense held two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning to one yard passing in the first quarter, while the defensive front had an array of big plays featuring Geno Atkins, Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims.
Cincinnati's backups and third-stringers applied similar pressure, but with the collective mistakes you would expect from players receiving limited repetitions during practice and even less expectations to make the roster. Despite that, some rookies made an impression, especially on defense.
Rookie linebacker P.J. Dawson, looped around from his outside linebacker position, making contact with New York's ball carrier in the backfield, locking him down for others to make the tackle. Rookie defensive tackle Marcus Hardison was anything but a defensive tackle. Hardison primarily played as a left defensive end, floating around the defense like an experienced veteran, attacking the line of scrimmage while also dropping into coverage; he easily lowered the boom on a scrambling quarterback in the open field.
Even rookie cornerback Troy Hill made a memorable play, deflecting a fourth quarter pass in the red zone, concluding New York's threat with less than a minute remaining in the game. The move reserved Cincinnati's 23-10 win over the Giants.
Wide receivers Greg Little, who captured a 42-yard highlight down the right sidelines, and Denarius Moore, entered the fourth quarter on offense, led by Josh Johnson who was the team's primary quarterback, save for a few possessions bookended by Dalton and fourth-stringer Keith Wenning. Jake Kumerow received a few opportunities, and Cincinnati made several attempts to get Mario Alford the football; he had one impressive end around. C.J. Uzomah, on the other hand, had a play he'd rather forget, failing to look at his quarterback who had targeted him during a deep post down the middle of the field.
Unfortunately, Lewis' preseason prayers were only partially answered when running backs Cedric Peerman (knee) and Rex Burkhead (neck) departed midway through the second quarter with injuries. Darqueze Dennard was declared out with a groin and trainers momentarily worked on Shawn Williams right hand. Lewis said during postgame reports he believes everyone will be fine heading into the rest of the regular season.
Injuries to Peerman and Burkhead allowed opportunities for others, specifically James Wilder Jr. and Terrell Watson, both of whom combined for 105 yards rushing on 21 carries and a touchdown.
Cincinnati will head to Tampa Bay for a Monday Night game next week.