clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Preseason Week 1: Alex Erickson introduces himself in Bengals’ 17-16 loss to Vikings

The Bengals looked solid in their preseason opener against the Vikings. The defensive starters’ time on the field was short but sweet and Andy Dalton returned ready to go and looking sharp. But, the star of the night was undrafted rookie wide receiver Alex Erickson who scored the team’s only two touchdowns.

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals kicked off the preseason against the Vikings tonight and Brandon Tate was the man to return the opening kickoff. He took it out 24 yards to the 27-yard line and then followed that up by receiving Andy Dalton’s first pass of the 2016 preseason. How about that for all the Tate haters hoping he’d be pushed off the roster by younger players this season?

Dalton then began to distribute the ball as A.J. Green caught a pass and Jeremy Hill started his season with a three yard run. It seemed as if the Vikings might have been forgetting to cover the Bengals’ No. 1 target as Green caught a nine-yard pass to follow that up. On the first drive, the Bengals offense achieved three first downs and 43 total net yards. Dalton went 4-of-5 for 32 yards on the opening drive, a nice showing for his first time in live game action since injuring his thumb in Week 14 of the 2015 season. For all the talk that the Bengals struggled this week against the Vikings in practice, the starters didn’t show signs of that.

Unfortunately, Mike Nugent ended the first offensive drive with an unsuccessful 48 yard field goal. That’s not the most encouraging way for him to start off his season. Of note, Zach Hocker, the Bengals’ backup kicker was hurt and not playing in the game. That certainly won’t help his already slim odds of making the roster.

On the first defensive drive, Geno Atkins almost got a sack on the first play, pushing Teddy Bridgewater back about 15 yards. Bridgewater ended up getting the ball out of his hands for a three yard pass to Kyle Rudolph that was stopped by a Carlos Dunlap tackle.

But, on the second down, Atkins was ready for the sack, which was accompanied by Michael Johnson. The Vikings went three and out and the Bengals defense looked great, with the starters showing all they needed to show in a simple three downs.

The first punt of the game was returned by Tyler Boyd, 14 yards to the 22 yard line but a penalty made it just a six yard gain. That was the Bengals’ lone penalty of the first half.

AJ McCarron takes over

The day ended for Dalton after the first series and in came McCarron. Hill had a minor scare on McCarron’s first drive as he appeared to hurt his left hand. He was checked out by trainers but a few minutes later he seemed to be fine and back on the sideline. He didn’t return to the game, finishing the night with three rushes for 16 yards, a 5.3 yard per carry average.

Giovani Bernard then got a lot of work, converting a third down, running on five consecutive plays and picking up 6, 2, 6, 3, and 3 yards respectively.

Here’s one of those runs, which converted a first down.

On McCarron’s first drive, he went 7-of-9 for 58 yards. The offense converted seven of eight possible third downs and the one they couldn’t convert had them at the Minnesota three yard line. They went for it on fourth down, but Peerman was unable to get the first down, keeping the game scoreless. The red zone play calling seemed pretty conservative, but, it is the preseason and the Bengals aren’t going to open up the playbook quite yet.

Tyler Boyd’s first target in the league was nearly intercepted but the next play was a better one for a Bengals rookie wide receiver as Cody Core caught his first NFL pass for a nine yard gain.

One player who was in on the action early was Jeff Luc who has converted over to be a fullback this offseason after playing linebacker in college. He was playing earlier than you may expect with many of the starters.

Tate had a great first half that included catching a 20-yard pass from McCarron. James Wright returned for his first NFL game in 20 months and his lone catch of the night was an 8-yard pass in the early second quarter.

Rex Burkhead was unexpectedly out for the game so Cedric Peerman got a ton of play and was active in both the run and passing game on 11 plays in the first half.

Defensive backups enter

Bridgewater returned for the Vikings’ second series, but the Bengals’ defensive starters did not. Nick Vigil was in at linebacker and got his first tackle in the NFL, which was followed up on the next play by his second tackle in the NFL. Duke Tobin, who joined the broadcasting crew for the early portion of the second quarter, noted that they’re “going to have to” find a way to play the rookie linebacker this year because of how much he’s shown in training camp.

With the Bengals' backups in on defense, Bridgewater threw as 49-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson to open the scoring, giving the Vikings a 7-0 lead.

Mario Alford got the ensuing kickoff and brought it out 26 yards to the 30-yard line. And, once the Bengals’ defense forced the Vikings to punt, Alford took out the next next return as well. He ran the ball our nine yards until MyCole Pruitt tackled him and was called for a horse collar and 15-yard penalty. Later in the quarter Core caught a nice eight yard pass from McCarron, which took the game to the two minute warning. Core looked solid in his opportunities, which was a welcomed site.

But, the first half couldn’t end without a great play from Boyd. McCarron launched a 40-yard bomb to Boyd who went with a sliding, beautiful catch.

Here’s what Boyd had to say of his first highlight-reel play as a Bengal.

The drive was then capped off with a touchdown catch by undrafted rookie wide receiver Alex Erickson, who is definitely going to be someone you want to keep an eye on going forward. (More on that below!)

The first half was really solid. There were no injuries (that were noticed, assuming Hill is OK), the starters played well and did what they needed to do and the backups showed up with Vigil and Josh Shaw two of the standouts on defense. The first half of the game also proved that Tate is nearly a lock to make the roster. The first half saw the Bengals with 12 first downs, 7 of 10 converted third downs and 193 total yards, 45 rushing and 148 passing.

Keith Wenning enters

Wenning entered the game in the third quarter at which point running backs Tra Carson and Bronson Hill also began getting some play. Wenning attempted a long pass to Core but it was broken up.

The Vikings kept first round draft pick, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the game into the third quarter and Darius Hillary, an undrafted rookie cornerback whose father is former Bengal Ira Hillary, was unable to make tackle on a Treadwell catch for a first down.

Soon after that, fellow undrafted rookie cornerback Corey Tindal made a tackle that was accompanied by a penalty for illegal use of hands. The young cornerbacks had some rough moments, but, that’s to be expected in their first live NFL action. Tindal actually got a nice tackle a few moments later on another pass to Treadwell.

A few missed tackles from the Bengals’ defense, including P.J. Dawson allowed Vikings running back C.J. Ham to score a touchdown, putting the Vikings up 17-7.

The Bengals allowed Bronson Hill to try out a kick return, but it didn’t go well as he took it out from the 3-yard line to the 13-yard line for 10 yards. Jake Kumerow finally got into the game with a catch for 7-yards and the next play saw Carson have a nice 19-yard run that helped bring the ball out and was part of a solid evening for the Bengals’ run game.

But, the drive ended with the first interception of the evening. The pass from Wenning was targeting undrafted rookie receiver Antwane Grant but was tipped and caught by Vikings rookie cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Fortunately, the interception battle quickly evened as newly-added Bengals safety Jimmy Wilson intercepted a Joel Stave pass intended for Isaac Fruechte on the following Vikings drive. Wilson played for the Chargers last year and will be battling for one of the final safety spots on the roster.

Getting back to Kumerow, he didn’t show much in the game and was targeted on a long pass that wound up in the endzone, but he lost track of the ball and was unable to make the catch, despite being in range to grab it.

Joe Licata enters

University at Buffalo rookie quarterback Joe Licata entered the game with less than eight minutes remaining and connected with Canadian rookie wide receiver Rashaun Simonise for a 47-yard catch. He followed that up with a 21-yard pass to tight end Matt Lengel and then a 14-yard pass to Grant. Licata started off his NFL career quite nicely with three consecutive completions, not too bad for an undrafted rookie. Though, it got a bit more rough as he continued playing.

After getting the offense down to the Minnesota 5-yard line, Licata was unable to lead the offense to a touchdown and Nugent scored a 23-yard field goal to make the score 17-10, Vikings. Still, in his first NFL drive, Licata went 3-of-4 for 82 yards.

Erickson has been noted for his return ability and tonight he delivered. Breaking numerous tackles, Erickson returned a punt 80-yards for a touchdown, to bring the Bengals within one-point of the Vikings with less than three minutes remaining in the game. The former Wisconsin receiver scored both of the Bengals’ touchdowns and offered fans a nice introduction to what he’s capable of doing. Erickson has now secured a label as someone on a mission to make the 53-man roster. Interestingly, after the game, he said he hadn’t returned a punt for a touchdown since high school.

After the touchdown, the Bengals went for two with Licata targeting Grant, but it went incomplete, leaving them trailing by one, which ended up being the difference in the game.

The Bengals defense needed to get the offense off the field quickly if they wanted another chance at scoring and undrafted rookie defensive end Ryan Brown helped that effort with a nice tackle, his first in the NFL.

Erickson went back for the next punt return, but, called for a fair catch at the 16-yard line. The Bengals’ offense was unable to get anything done and Licata was sacked on third down. They decided to go for it on 4th and 19 at their own 7-yard line and, Licata was picked off, essentially ending the game.

The game ended in a 17-16 loss for the Bengals, but it was a good showing for the team in their preseason opener and it looks like there may be some players moving up (and down) the depth chart.

What did you think about the return of the Bengals?