A suffocating effort by the starting defense helped pace the Bengals to a 23-10 win over the Giants in their preseason opener.
Here are our grades of each position group following the win.
The defensive line in general was solid throughout the night, but the starters played lights out. Geno Atkins led the way for the defensive tackles as he looked like the pre-ACL injury Geno who no one could block one-on-one.
Once Atkins came out, Pat Sims and Brandon Thompson were also sharp and had several tackles-for-loss and stops right at the line of scrimmage.
Devon Still struggled to do much of anything and didn't even record a defensive statistic in 27 snaps and had a dumb offsides penalty.
Rookie undrafted free agent DeShawn Williams may have had the best night of any DT not named Geno. He was often getting good push and into the Giants backfield. He even picked up a sack to go with a tackle-for-loss and and two QB hits.
Overall, this was a great effort from what was one of the Bengals' weakest positions in 2014.
The defensive ends were good for portions of this game, but there were also stretched this unit was a liability and looked like the 2014 unit that finished dead-last in sacks.
Carlos Dunlap played great in his limited snaps, highlights by this tackle-for-loss after reading the play beautifully.
As our own Josh Kirkendall mentioned earlier, defensive end/tackle Marcus Hardison was impressive in his NFL debut. He did so while lining up across the defensive line and even dropping back into coverage a few times.
Second-year man Will Clarke was the only other end that stood out. He had a productive game with several QB pressures and one hit to go with a QB takedown right at the line of scrimmage that wasn't recorded as a sack, but did force a punt on third down.
Overall, it was a good day for the ends, especially since neither Margus Hunt nor Michael Johnson played.
Rey Maualuga, Vinny Rey, Emmanuel Lamur, and A.J. Hawk ran with the starters for the first two series with Lamur getting a few snaps thereafter, but those four all had less than 12 snaps in this game. They helped shut the Giants' offense down to start the game and looked good overall. Lamur even had a third-down stuff along with Brandon Thompson on the defense's fourth series to force a punt.
That left younger guys like Nico Johnson to play a lot, and he shined with the extra snaps received. Johnson finished with a game-high 10 tackles and one pass deflection. He was all over the field and definitely helped his case for the final 53-man roster.
Marquis Flowers also looked good on the outside. He chipped in seven stops to go with a pass deflection and had several other plays in which his coverage helped prevent a catch.
Rookie linebacker P.J. Dawson played just 21 snaps, but did get two tackles and one tackle-for-loss:
This unit performed well in helping the Bengals defense limit the Giants to just 10 points.
The Bengals' corners were solid overall in this one and made life hard on whoever was in at QB. Giants QBs combined to complete just 15-of-33 passes for 118 yards and no scores while being sacked twice. Dre Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones and Darqueze Dennard made life miserable on Eli Manning, and Dennard continued to play well when Ryan Nassib came in.
Undrafted free agent Troy Hill got a ton of run once those three were done, and he more than held his own. Hill made two pass deflections and had several other plays he used his body to help keep the receiver from getting to the ball in a legal manner.
Hill was also good on special teams and made a good tackle on kick-off coverage. Fellow rookie and fourth-round pick Josh Shaw had his ups and downs in this one, but looked good overall.
In the end, this position's play was what really won the game for Cincinnati. They locked down Giants receivers throughout the night and didn't allow a single player to catch more than three passes or record more than 34 yards.
Thanks to good games all around in the front seven, the safeties didn't have to do much in this game.
Starters George Iloka and Reggie Nelson didn't have to do much to help the defense force consecutive three-and-outs to open the game. By the time the defense came on for their third series, Shiloh Keo and Shawn Williams were the two safeties. Those two did little to impress, combining for eight tackles while allowing several big receptions in coverage.
To be fair to Williams, he was forced from the game with a hand injury for a brief period before returning. He had a bad night overall though and could be losing ground to rookie Derron Smith as the No. 3 safety. Smith actually played in 34 snaps, seven more than Williams' 27.
Speaking of, Smith didn't get many chances to make a play, but did have two nice tackles in the third quarter. Overall, this unit wasn't asked to do much, but didn't exactly look great in the few chances they got.