Following the Bengals' 23-10 win over the Giants in their preseason opener, here are our grades for each offensive position for their performance Friday night.
Andy Dalton looked as sharp as ever in limited work against the Giants. All three of his passes were on point and hit receivers in stride so they could pick up yards after the catch. The only play that Dalton was pressured on saw him scramble out of danger and pick up six yards. He finished his only drive by hitting Mohamed Sanu for a three-yard score to give the Bengals a lead they never relinquished.
Once Dalton came out, there was a clear drop-off between he and Josh Johnson. With AJ McCarron sitting out vs. the Giants, it was a great chance for Johnson to make up ground in the race for the backup QB spot. Instead, Johnson struggled and only hurt his case for the job.
He did enough to lead the Bengals on three scoring drives in about three quarters of work before Keith Wenning took over. Wenning completed just two passes, but threw two more good ones, one which Jake Kumerow couldn't hall in, and another that rookie C.J. Uzomah dropped, which could have been an easy touchdown. Wenning threw a bad interception on the next play, but he did enough to show there's some promise in him.
Bengals running backs played outstanding throughout this game. Jeremy Hill got things started with a pair of runs for 15 yards on Cincinnati's opening touchdown drive.
Once he went out, so too did many of the starting lineman, which helped contribute to Giovani Bernard's four rushes for five yards. He only played seven snaps along with Hill's six snaps. This was a night for the backup backs to shine, and they did that and then some.
Rex Burkhead showed why he's been so hard to defend in training camp. He picked up 23 yards on just four carries as he blazed past Giants defenders. He didn't get to show off his pass-catching skills though as he didn't get even a single target. Cedric Peerman also shined with 11 yards on three carries to go with an 18-yard reception before injuring his knee.
With Rex also leaving with a neck injury, that meant more snaps for James Wilder Jr., who ran for a game-high 53 yards and a score on 14 carries. Terrell Watson came in and ran for 52 yards on just seven carries.
Bengals backs finished the night with 182 yards and a score on 35 carries (5.2 yards per carry). Considering how bad the blocking was at times once the starters came out, it was a great effort overall by this unit.
Tyler Eifert left his mark on Friday's game with two big catches for 30 yards, which led to Bengals scores. Though it was brief, Eifert showed why the 6'6" tight end is uncoverable against most defensive backs or linebackers tasked with defending him.
Once Eifert came out though, the production from this position was close to non-existent. Tyler Kroft didn't catch a pass and C.J. Uzomah caught two for 13. However, it was Uzomah's dropped touchdown in the fourth quarter that stuck out most. To be fair to them, they were in the game for much of the night with Josh Johnson. As mentioned above, that's not a favorable position to be in.
Still, this position needs to show more going forward, even when Eifert isn't in the game.
The Bengals got off to a fast start thanks to a 16-yard grab by A.J. Green that was followed up by a three-yard score by Mohamed Sanu.
Once Dalton came out though, it became harder for the receivers to show what they were made of with Johnson at QB. Denarius Moore looked good on his one catch for 30 yards, as did Greg Little with his highlight-reel catch. Little actually had a game-high 65 yards on three catches and has made this an even harder position to determine who will be on the final 53-man roster.
Rookie Mario Alford looked good with one catch for 13 yards and an end-around run for 23 more. Marvin Jones looked good in his return with one catch for 16 yards and had another play where he should have scored if Johnson had thrown a better pass.
Overall, this was a great effort by the receivers after a poor 2014 season for anyone outside of A.J. Green. It looks like there's now several other viable pass-catches to help upgrade the offense.
The starting line looked great in pass protection and opening up holes for Jeremy Hill on the game's opening drive. Center Russell Bodine did get pushed back into the backfield on two occasions, which led to Dalton being pressured on one play and a tackle-for-loss on the other.
This unit began struggling more in pass protection once the backups came in. Josh Johnson was sacked twice, both times were on the line.
The backups were opening up good holes though for seemingly every Bengals back to gain big yardage. You have to remember that neither Andre Smith nor Jake Fisher played in this game, so that helped play into the pass-protection struggles.
In the end, this unit did about as good as you would expect in these circumstances. While the pass-blocking needs work, Bengals lineman were mauling Giants all night in the run game, and that was a big reason why Cincinnati won with relative ease.