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Bengals vs. Buccaneers Preseason Week 2: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Dare us to find some good for the Bengals from this week's 25-11 loss to the Buccaneers?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In case you weren't aware, Cincy Jungle is comprised of writers who also moonlight as comedians. Within our own private chats yesterday evening and into today, the group became a bunch of "Smart Aleck's" when it came to our "Winners and Losers" post, as well as this one here. Why? Well, if you watched the Bengals deplorable performance on Monday night, you'd be cuing the rim shots.

The Good:

P.J. Dawson: The guy isn't known for great practice habits and/or punctuality, but he seems to have kept his nose clean as a rookie with the Bengals so far and had a solid game against the Buccaneers. He shot in to tackle the ball carrier at the one-yard line on a fourth-and-goal and had three other solid tackles. He was a bit of a ghost in the opener, but the game appeared to slow down for him in Tampa Bay.

James Wilder, Jr.: The second-year back was the only one at the position group who did anything relatively impressive. He only had three touches, but all three were incredibly productive. His first carry went for a 10-yard sprint and a first down, while his second was a four-yard touchdown run. His final touch of the night was a swing pass from AJ McCarron where he did most of the work and dove inside the pylon for a two-point conversion. Do you think he wants to make this team?

A Semblance Of "The Old Geno": Unfortunately, a terrible performance by almost every other starter on the night overshadowed some of the good things Geno Atkins showed on Monday night. He had a half-sack and and another tackle, while getting penetration against Buccaneers starters. He wasn't utterly dominant, which kept him off our two award lists, but Atkins definitely looked closer to the guy from 2012-2013 than the one from 2014.

The AJ McCarron/Jake Kumerow Rapport: The second-year quarterback didn't have an incredible performance, but it was scrappy and got better as he took more snaps. Some of McCarron's best passes of the night were sharp slant-type routes to Kumerow. Those led to the Bengals' only touchdown drive of the night and it was nice to see two inexperienced players do well against other pro competition.

Tom Obarski, The Fallback Option: The kicking job is going to go to Mike Nugent. Marvin Lewis and Darrin Simmons like their veteran special teamers, so they'll stick with the former Ohio State kicker. Still the undrafted Obarski out of tiny Concordia St. Paul has come in and nailed four-of-five attempts. With Nugent's proclivity to succumb to injuries, it's going to be nice to have Obarski on the hotline, unless someone else takes a flier on him.

Chris Carter: Have the Bengals finally found the "hy-backer" they have been looking for ever since Marvin Lewis left Baltimore? Carter was drafted by Pittsburgh because of his pass-rush ability with the size of a linebacker, but never caught on there. He had a couple of pressures in the first game against the Giants and followed it up with 1.5 sacks against the Buccaneers. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has gushed over Carter this offseason, but is he a productive niche NFL rusher, or another Dontay Moch preseason Hall of Famer?

Four Quarterback Sacks: We might be reaching here in a game we need to grab at positives, but four sacks in one game from a defense that had just 20 in 16 games last season shows a little bit of promise. When Michael Johnson and Vontaze Burfict return this stat can only be increased.

The Bad:

Bengals In Primetime Once Again: The only thing keeping this area out of "The Ugly" is the fact it was a preseason contest. Whether you believe in the stigma or not, the Bengals once again had a terrible showing on the national stage. All cameras were pointed at Jameis Winston and instead of the team playing inspired football as they did in a similar situation with Johnny Manziel last year, they decided to sleepwalk through the contest on both sides of the ball.

Zero Turnovers Forced: For two consecutive weeks in the preseason, the Bengals didn't force a turnover. Sure, the defense mostly stifled the Giants overall, but two consecutive games against two teams that combined for eight wins last year without a turnover doesn't bode well going forward.

The Stats Of Wide Receivers: Take away Kumerow's three-catch, 42-yard performance and there was basically nothing from the wide receiver group on Monday night. A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and Greg Little combined for just four catches for 44 yards and zero touchdowns (this, aside from Kumerow, of course). The offensive line didn't help matters, nor did inconsistent quarterback play, but the playmakers on the outside did zero favors.

The Secondary Getting Pushed Around By Big Wideouts: Since his days as the Chicago Bears' head coach, Lovie Smith has preferred big, physical wide receivers. While those types haven't given the Bengals secondary fits in recent years (it's been more of the speedy, shifty guys), the uber-physical play of the Bucs' wideouts provided many problems for the Bengals' secondary. Troy Hill had a defensive holding, as did Floyd Raven, while Chris Lewis-Harris had a big pass interference penalty. Starters Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick had nice pass break-ups but also let up big completions, including a touchdown pass from Mike Glennon on Kirkpatrick. There were a number of push-offs from Tampa Bay wideouts which weren't called, but the press coverage that Bengals defensive backs pride themselves on were basically negated.

The Block-in-The-Back No-Call On Winston's Touchdown Run: Winston seemed confident and made a couple of nice throws, but his touchdown run likely shouldn't have happened. When you're able, have a look at how linebacker Emmanuel Lamur is blocked on Winston's scramble:

The Ugly:

The Safety: After a dismal first half, the Bengals defense, thanks to Dawson, the team stood strong on a goal line stand. However, just one play later, the inept Cincinnati offense burst the positivity balloon by allowing Tampa Bay's defense to tackle Cedric Peerman in the end zone for a safety.

The Performance Of The Running Backs: Including Ryan Hewitt, the Bengals running backs had 40 rushing yards on 12 carries with a touchdown and a lost fumble. Throw in seven catches for 30-yards and it was an all-around unproductive evening for the position. By the way, after two awful games on the ground, is it time to start worrying about Giovani Bernard, yet?

The Offensive Line: For Example A, see above. Pass protection wasn't any better, as the line allowed four sacks and multiple other pressures on the evening. The worst part of their performance? Two of their best offensive linemen, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, had terrible nights against a defensive line that contributed to a two-win season last year for the Bucs.

A Vontaze Burfict-Less Defense: It might officially be time to worry about this group. Dawson began to flash, which is sorely needed, however the veterans look lost and uninspired. Granted, we're talking about the preseason here, but it's clear the group doesn't have the same intensity and confidence when the guy who lines and pumps them up isn't out there. Given the performances of Geno Atkins and Leon Hall last year after coming off of injury so soon, they don't want to rush Burfict back before he's ready. Still, the sooner he's back, the better this defense will be.

Both Interceptions: The "Anti-Andy Dalton" camp and the "A.J. Green isn't that good" camp had to have field days on Monday night. After being pinned deep, Dalton threw two nice passes to Green to get the Bengals out of trouble. The good news? Both passes were completed. The bad? The second hit the Pro Bowl wide receiver right in the hands and turned into a pick-six. The next possession, Dalton familiarly sailed a pass to Tyler Eifert causing another interception. The next possession ended with a Jeremy Hill lost fumble--yikes.

Scary Injury Moments With Starters: Both Eifert and George Iloka had scary injury issues that shouldn't have occurred. The second preseason game is a double-edged sword: keep the starters in while they're struggling to get some confidence, but risk injury? In the second quarter, Dalton threw a pass to Eifert at the one-yard line, which initially appeared to be completed. However, the third-year tight end was rocked right in the spot (elbow) that caused him to miss almost all of 2014. Effect came up in visible pain, though it doesn't sound as if anything serious occurred. Additionally, Iloka was taken out of the game after suffering a kneecap bruise while attempting to break up a scuffle. He didn't practice on Wednesday.

Getting Out-Physicaled: Every time "Steelers Week" rolls around, we talk about how the Bengals need to finally learn how to out-muscle the Pittsburgh. Call it beating them at their own game if you want, but it seems to be one of the few ways to consistently beat the Black and Yellow. While facing a Tampa Bay team that was much-maligned in 2014, the Bengals looked overmatched in almost every phase of the game. It was both disappointing and surprising, especially given Cincinnati's performance a week ago and the fact they had 10 days between preseason games.