The Cincinnati Bengals effectively dismantled the New York Giants Friday night, beating them in almost every facet of the game. It was a nice way to kick off the 2015 campaign on a number of different fronts, and a lot of backup players received some good work.
As with all other Bengals games, we go back and review the tape to see what went well and what didn't. Let's have a look at 2015's first edition of "the good, the bad, and the ugly".
Seeing Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones back contributing: Some are skeptical that simply having back two receiving weapons will be a cure-all for the offensive issues that popped up late in 2014, but two quarters of preseason play started to erase doubts. Eifert had two catches for 30 yards in just a couple of drives, while Jones had one for 17 yards and also beat a corner for a would-be touchdown.
A confident and accurate Andy Dalton: In just one series, Dalton quieted critics with pinpoint accuracy and the ability to spread the ball around to various targets. He was 3-for-3 passing with 31 yards and a touchdown on his lone drive. His best pass of the day was a first down beauty to A.J. Green on the sideline while rolling out.
The first drive: This one could be in the category of "the beautiful". A six-play, 52-yard march to a touchdown used three runs and three passes to three different targets, with four first downs to create perfection. Even when things didn't go right, Dalton and Co. still found a way to get positive yards (on a broken pass play, he still scrambled for six yards). While it was a brief glimpse at the group, it was great to see them hitting on all cylinders so early in the preseason.
The Defense: While the Giants did find a few running creases in the form of Orleans Darkwa, they had two sacks and allowed just 224 total yards. Eli Manning was never comfortable in his few series of work and the three quarterbacks combined for a sub-50 completion percentage. The unit looks deep from the starters to the backups and to think it's still missing Michael Johnson, Margus Hunt and Vontaze Burfict.
The rushing attack: Nine Bengals players carried the football and eight of those nine had at least relative success. Credit goes to the offensive line and the depth at the running back position. On that pretty first drive, the interior of the line created significant push, and the 225 total rushing yards, complete with a 5.4 yards-per-carry average tells the tale of the tape.
The precocious rookies: Josh Shaw, DeShawn Williams, Troy Hill, Marcus Hardison, Terrell Watson, Mario Alford, C.J. Uzomah and P.J. Dawson all contributed in some capacity and it was great to watch. The other thing to bring a smile to Bengals' fans faces? The fact that the coaching staff asked a lot of these young players and they responded. Hardison and Shaw were moved around often, while Williams and Hardison executed stunts on the line to perfection.
Tom Obarski stepping in: Yes, he missed a chip shot, but the undrafted kicker accounted for 11 of the team's 23 total points. He nailed a 46-yarder and two other attempts to help the team win the game after not being able to punch it in the end zone.
The statistical disparity: The Bengals out-rushed the Giants by 119 yards and out-gained them by 208 total yards. Cincinnati had upwards of two more yards-per-play and a full yard more per rush to go along with 10 and a half minutes more of ball possession.
Darqueze Dennard's pass interference penalty: A knock on Dennard coming out of college was his almost overly-physical nature with receivers, which was supposed to cause problems with the more stringent NFL pass interference rules. On Friday, he was tagged with a P.I. that was questionable at best and should not have been called. He's a physical corner and the hope is that that stigma won't be following him with an expanded role in 2015.
Giovani Bernard's performance: It is a bit depressing to see that Bernard had the worst game of all the running backs, but it is just one game with one brief glimpse. He had four carries for five yards and had two punt returns which netted zero yards. Let's hope for more promising results going forward.
Obarski's chip-shot miss: Maybe he got a little too overconfident after nailing a 46-yard beauty, but the chip shot miss didn't help his already-slim chances of supplanting Mike Nugent. Still, he hit two more from there and it's what is keeping this from the "ugly" portion.
No forced turnovers: Even with the statistical domination by the Bengals, they still lost the turnover battle. Had they not been so sound in almost every other facet of the game, this would have been a loss. Increased pass rush and some more savviness from the defensive backs will provide these.
The kick and punt return game: Not one of four different return men did anything when given an opportunity. Mario Alford, Brandon Tate, Giovani Bernard and Denarius Moore gave nothing exciting to the return game, bringing about some concern. Maybe Adam Jones will have a bigger role going forward?
Offensive third down, red zone and goal-to-go efficiencies: This game easily could have been 35-10 or worse, in favor of the Bengals. A 25 percent third down rate, a 40 percent red zone efficiency and a staggeringly low 40 percent goal-to-go efficiency rate contributed to the game getting uncomfortably close late with a Keith Wenning almost-pick-six. Not having a multitude of offensive weapons was the excuse last season, so what's it going to be in 2015?
The C.J. Uzomah touchdown drop: The kid made a nice couple of catches and showed athleticism, but the inexplicable "drop" was nothing short of embarrassing for the rookie. He was open on a seam/slant type of route, but didn't seem to know the ball was coming to him, thus hitting him in stride and losing out on a touchdown. The following play was an almost-pick six on a fourth down.
The safety play: George Iloka and Reggie Nelson are immune to criticism on this one, but many others aren't. Shawn Williams had an injury, as well as getting trucked on a run play and giving up a decent pass play. Shiloh Keo seemed to be lost most of the night and even the beloved Derron Smith was behind on two pass plays which netted him his only two tackles of the night.
Devon Still: I hate to point out a singular person, much less one who has been through as much as Still, but it wasn't a good night for the fourth-year defensive lineman. After priming himself with a high-intensity workout regimen this offseason and getting in the best shape of his life, Still was a total no-factor in 27 snaps on Friday. He was pushed back a number of times and seemed to have fallen behind other defensive linemen in the process. Almost every Bengals fan pulls for the guy, but he needs to make more plays on the field to fulfill those hopes.