For as good as the Bengals looked last week against the Giants, they looked equally as bad against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second week of the preseason. In more ways than one it was a step back. The offense never got in a rhythm and the defense missed tackle after tackle resulting in stomach turning plays. But, let’s remind ourselves this is the preseason. In fact it’s just Week 2 of the preseason. Anyone advised to buy stock on a team in the preseason should switch stock brokers immediately. So take a deep breath everyone. But remember, the preseason does offer some substance for the rookies battling for a spot on the Bengals' roster. The next time the Bengals go on the road in the fourth week of the preseason, 15 players currently on the team will no longer be Cincinnati Bengals. With that in mind, let's take a look at how the rookies fared against the Bucs.
The two top draft picks this year did not play. Jake Fisher is still recovering from a shoulder injury and Cedric Ogbuehi remains on the NFI list, recovering from December ACL surgery. Jake Fisher has sat out for more than two weeks now with a shoulder injury.
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater product went undrafted this year even after winning Division III offensive player of the year honors in 2014. He was scooped up by the Bengals and is has caused a bit of noise lately. He’s held on this far in the preseason madness and he was a good target for McCarron who fed him three passes (all of which were caught) for 42 yards, including a key first down in the Bengals' last drive of the game. Kumerow finished the game leading all receivers in terms of yardage. This is a significant build from last week, when he caught only one pass for four yards.
The second half of this game was better than the first, all things considered, but it was still a mixed bag of concerns and compliments. Dawson provided a highlight after stopping Dominque Brown on the goal line on fourth down, an impressive feat considering that Brown is 240 pounds. While goal line stands are always impressive, it did come after a controlling drive that lasted more than seven minutes by Tampa’s second team offense. Concern and compliment. Dawson had another solid game logging four tackles on the night. He is proving to be as solid as advertised.
The fourth round selection out of USC played well against the Bucs showing good instincts and aggressive play. These were things the Bengals wanted out of the rookie cornerback after he raised eyebrows in his short collegiate career (119 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 14 pass deflections). There is still plenty of work to be done, but grabbing five solo tackles and a quarterback hit is a strong showing.
On route to the second half goal line stand, Derron Smith was able to stand up big Brown on third down with the help of fellow rookie Trevor Roach. The free safety had a good night, capped off by his three tackles. Smith, who was drafted in the sixth round out of Fresno State dropped into the Bengals' lap late in the draft despite being projected to go somewhere closer to the fourth round. He impressed in OTAs this spring and is showing why he might be a huge steal from this year’s draft class. It’s fair to note though that he will be low on the depth chart with George Iloka, Reggie Nelson, Shawn Williams, and Shiloh Keo likely to come out ahead of him.
The rookie kicker continues to get work. Mike Nugent is recovering from a hamstring strain, so the limited scoring attempts were performed by Obarski. He nailed a 37-yard field goal with 2:46 left in the first half to put the Bengals on the board, but that’s all he would get as the Bengals went for the two-point conversion late in the game off their only touchdown.
Mario Alford continues to get looks as a return specialist. He looked respectable returning one kickoff for 23-yards and scrambled for 19-yards on the only punt return for the Bengals. This seems to be the only way Alford is going to get time since a crowded receiver core seems to be pushing him out. I expect Hue Jackson will at some point utilize Alford’s game-changing speed on trick plays throughout the season, but his bread and butter will no doubt be to supplement the often unremarkable Brandon Tate on special teams.