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Preseason Week 4 Bengals vs. Colts: Pro Football Focus grades and analysis

Without any of the starters playing in the final preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, the Bengals' backup and reserve players got their chance to put their talents on display one more time before final cuts. We take a look at Pro Football Focus's grades for their performance.

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Week 4 of the preseason the Bengals' backups defeated the Colts' backups 9-6. As evidenced by the lack of touchdowns scored by both teams, the Bengals' defense performed much better than the offense, but there were still plenty of things to take away from both sides. With final cuts due dependent on this game, this was the most important game of the preseason for those fringe players fighting for a roster spot.

Although the Bengals' offense failed to produce more than a few field-goal scoring drives, some players still received good grades, the best of which included: James Wilder Jr. (+1.8),Matt Lengel (+1.8), Matt O'Donnell (+1.3), Brandon Tate (+1.1), Trey Hopkins(+0.4), and Greg Little (+0.2). From that group, only Tate and Little made the 53-man roster.

The defense performed much better, with far more players being graded particularly well, such as: Chris Lewis-Harris (+3.0), Chris Carter (+2.3), Margus Hunt (+2.0), A.J. Hawk (+1.7), Marcus Hardison (+1.4), Trevor Roach (+1.3), Shawn Williams (+1.2), and DeShawn Williams (+0.6). From that group, Roach and DeShawn Williams did not make the 53-man roster. Both are potential practice squad players, which will be announced later today.

Here are the further breakdowns and some analysis:


  • Quarterback AJ McCarron (-6.3) received the worst grade on the team by nearly four points despite throwing for 219 yards. This was mostly due to his 53 percent completion rating and his inability to throw a touchdown pass despite being in a position to score multiple times.
  • McCarron received a much lower grade against the Colts than he did against the Bears (+2.1), suggesting problems with consistency that he will need to improve upon before making any bid to improve beyond the backup quarterback position.

  • A consistent problem with McCarron during this preseason has been his struggles against the pass rush. McCarron was responsible for one of his four sacks by the Colts; a result of holding onto the ball too long. McCarron fumbled the ball after being hit on two of these four occasions, although the Bengals recovered both.

  • Brandon Tate (+1.1) and Greg Little (+0.2) were the only receivers who earned positive grades from Pro Football Focus. Their combined 120 yards receiving accounted for nearly half of the team's 252 total receiving yards on the day. Both receivers may have solidified their bids to make the roster due to generally good performances.

  • Reserve quarterback Keith Wenning received a particularly bad score (-1.3) as a result of missing on nearly half of his passes (3/7) and only recorded 33 yards in one quarter of play. Wenning was cut but, is eligible for the practice squad.


  • The overall grade for James Wilder Jr. (+1.8) was tied for the best overall grade on the offense, as a result of averaging 6.2 yards per carry during the contest. Yet, it wasn't enough for Wilder to make the roster.
  • Cedric Peerman (-0.6) and Terrell Watson (-2.1) were the only other running backs to see any touches during the game, both of whom performed generally poorly. Watson committed one of the team's four fumbles on the night, which was one of the two that resulted in a turnover. Peerman will be sticking around with the Bengals this year and we wait to see if Watson will make the practice squad.


  • 2015 second round pick Jake Fisher received a very poor overall score (-1.8), although it was much better than his atrociously bad grade last week (-9.0).
  • The offensive line, as a whole, performed very poorly, receiving a total grade of -2.8. Although McCarron was responsible for one of his own sacks, he was sacked three more times, otherwise hit once, and hurried 10 times.

  • Russell Bodine (-0.7) continued to struggle, as he did all offseason and preseason. However, backup centers T.J. Johnson (-0.7) and Jake Smith (-0.8) didn't fare much better. Smith has since been cut.

  • Backup Right Guard Dan France received an entirely average overall grade (0.0) due to receiving the only particularly good pass block score on the team (+1.1) but earned a particularly bad run blocking score (-1.2) and a decent score in penalties (+0.1). France has been cut and the decision on if he'll be returning to the practice squad this year should come this afternoon.


  • Backup cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris received the best grade on the team (+3.0) after recording four tackles, one assisted tackle, two stops, no missed tackles, and an interception. Lewis-Harris did make the 53-man roster, which had to be helped by his performance.
  • Devon Still put together another solid performance against the Colts, receiving a good overall grade (+0.5). Still pressured the quarterback once, recorded one tackle, and one stop. It was not enough for Still to prove he deserved a place on the Bengals' roster though.

  • Backup linebacker Chris Carter received the second best grade of the game (+2.3) as a result of consistently pressuring the quarterback, recording one sack, one assisted tackle, and one stop. Carter's run of form through the preseason, as well as his ability to generate pressure on the quarterback, earned him a spot on the final roster.

  • The Bengals' pass rush was graded very well against the Bears (+5.6) largely due to Carlos Dunlap's ability to create havoc in the backfield. Dunlap received a pass rush grade of (+1.2). However, only Dunlap and LB Chris Carter were able to generate sacks.

  • Weakside Linebacker P.J. Dawson performed very poorly in pass coverage (-1.4), but seemingly made up for it by recording two sacks, four tackles, three assisted tackles, and five stops. As a result, he received a generally good overall score for the game (+0.9).

  • Although his position was not considered to be under much scrutiny, backup strong safety Shawn Williams received a very good overall score (+1.2), as a result of a good score against the run (+1.1), six tackles, two assisted tackles, and four stops.

  • Backup defensive tackle Brandon Thompson put together a poor performance, receiving a very low overall score (-1.5). Thompson was ineffective against the run and the pass, and received the worst penalty grade on the team due to a defensive offsides penalty that put the Colts in much easier position to get a first down. They didn't get it, but it was the kind of mistake that you can't make during the season.