The Bengals followed up a productive preseason opener with another good showing in their second tune-up game.
This time, it came at Ford Field as Cincinnati took it to Detroit en route to a 30-13 win. It was a great performance by both the Bengals starters and backups.
Here is a look at our winners and losers from the Bengals' second preseason game.
This has been a great preseason for the Bengals' No. 2 quarterback. After going 11-of-16 with one score against the Vikings, McCarron put up a similar line going 10-for-15 for 95 yards and 1 touchdown against the Lions. He's looked very impressive, even if most of his passes have been in the short-to-intermediate routes.
Cody Core with the first down #bengals https://t.co/gA2S9WxFoY— sarah (@sarahpamerica) August 19, 2016
Tyler!!!! Boyd!!!!!!! https://t.co/2a42C0Hujg— sarah (@sarahpamerica) August 19, 2016
McCarron is showing great poise and awareness in the pocket and not offering up any hesitancy playing behind a makeshift second-string line. He's even drawing the praise of Bengals great Anthony Munoz, who was calling Thursday's game and enjoyed what he saw of the third-year passer.
"The more I watch AJ McCarron, the more impressed I get," Munoz said. "The guy just looks so comfortable back there, just throws the football, and he's so accurate."
On the other side, Lions announcers were stating the obvious of how McCarron is a starting quarterback in this league. There's no debating that in a 32-team league, but for now, he's arguably the best backup any team has.
Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins get most of the praise along the Bengals' defensive line, but don't forget about how high of a level Michael Johnson was playing at before leaving in 2014. An injury-plagued season with the Buccaneers, followed by an up-and-down return season with the Bengals, have led to Johnson flying under-the-radar coming into the 2016 season.
This preseason, we're seeing the pre-2014 Johnson, which is a great sign for an already-scary Bengals defense. Against the Lions, Johnson was frequently in the backfield pressuring the quarterback or disrupting run plays.
One of his biggest plays came at the goal line as he beat first-round rookie tackle Taylor Decker for the stuff.
Taylor Decker allows an easy TFL https://t.co/zbR4HtKGh1— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 18, 2016
Johnson is looking great so far, which should only make life easier for the rest of the line.
While MJ had a great night, Carlos Dunlap was virtually unstoppable. The Lions had no answer outside of double-teaming the Pro Bowl defensive end, who actually looks a hair better than last year.
Dunlap was frequently beating his man off the snap, and either was held or got a paw on the quarterback throughout the first half.
Cole Wick one-on-one vs. Carlos Dunlap is a poor blocking strategy.https://t.co/3SSHhlxWwf— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) August 19, 2016
Earlier this offseason, Dunlap proclaimed his bid to set the NFL single-season sack record. While it's only two preseason games, Dunlap looks like a player capable of besting the 13.5 sacks he had last year, and pushing for his goal.
There is little doubt now that Tyler Boyd will be the Bengals' best rookie in 2016. As long as the second-round pick out of Pitt stays healthy, Boyd looks bound for a big year in an offense in desperate need of a No. 2 pass-catcher.
With Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft and Brandon LaFell sidelined, Boyd has been getting a lot of targets in training camp and the preseason, and he's converting a high percentage of them.
After hauling in a 40-yard bomb vs the Vikings, Boyd finished with two grabs on three targets for 36 yards and his first NFL touchdown. While the score was nice, Boyd's 26-yard diving snag was easily one of the best catches we've seen in this preseason.
Tyler Boyd with a great catch from Andy Dalton #GetUsedToIt https://t.co/ZYconR2PjI— Jason Marcum (@marcum89) August 18, 2016
Making this an even better game for Boyd was that he got the start as the second boundary receiver next to A.J. Green. Boyd has been pegged as the starting slot man in three-receiver sets, but with the Bengals looking like they're gearing their offense more toward pounding the rock this year, they should work in more ways to feature Boyd on the outside, too.
With LaFell out, Boyd is getting his chance to show he's not just a slot guy and can make an impact.
How good the Bengals are this year will largely be determined by which Jeremy Hill we see. The 2014 Hill should keep this offense producing at an elite level, but the 2015 Hill may lead to this unit taking step back when combined with all of the other losses the offense has suffered.
That’s why seeing the 2014 Hill vs the Lions was a great sight for Bengals fans. Hill appeared to have the kind of burst and power we saw when he was one of the NFL’s best backs during the second half of the 2014 season.
Jeremy Hill showing some nice burst https://t.co/OyIfSF2W8m— Jason Marcum (@marcum89) August 19, 2016
#Bengals take 7-3 lead on Jeremy Hill's nine-yard TD with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter. https://t.co/JbSreADhTf— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 18, 2016
We’re seeing why the Bengals are keeping Hill as the starter, even with Giovani Bernard having signed his big extension this offseason. Hill is the back who this offense will rely heavily on in 2016.
Anytime you suffer an injury, you've lost. Fortunately for Jake Fisher, his injury doesn't sound like it's nearly as serious as it appeared to be when it occurred. After the game, Marvin Lewis said it was just an ankle sprain, which almost puts Fisher in the 'winners' category as big of a sigh of relief that is.
But this is still bad news for Fisher, who had a golden opportunity to make his bid for the starting right tackle job with Cedric Ogbuehi out. With Fisher likely missing at least a week or two with this (he was wearing a walking boot following the game), that all but assures Ogbuehi of opening the season as the starting right tackle, so long as he's healthy.
The Bengals have a significant issue at kicker. Mike Nugent missed an extra point and a 45-yard field-goal attempt against the Lions, leaving the Bengals with a potential need to address before the regular season begins.
Mike Nugent, he of the earlier missed PAT, just hit a 50-yard field goal to give the #Bengals a 23-6 lead over the Lions.— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) August 19, 2016
This comes after Nugent missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt last week vs the Vikings. He looked great in training camp, but the pressure of practice kicks and in-game kicks are two different things, and the latter is really an issue with Nugent right now.
The good news is Nugent did drill a 50-yard field to give himself some small redemption in Detroit. Still, this may be enough to coax the Bengals into signing another kicker this week. They need more competition with Zach Hocker out with an undisclosed injury.