clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What We Learned about the Bengals in Preseason Week 2

That, and plenty of actual in-game takeaways from this week’s action in Detroit.

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from another costly injury, the Bengals looked pretty good in Week 2 of preseason action. For those who missed it (like Mike Nugent and his kicks — see what I did there?), here are my takeaways and what we learned about the Bengals during the last week.


Tyler Boyd has surpassed all expectations in his limited preseason action. Most Bengals fans wanted to see Cincinnati take one of the top four wideouts in the first round of the draft and were frustrated when the team ended up with Tyler Boyd, who was the seventh wide receiver to come off the board. If Boyd continues to excel at the level he’s currently playing when the regular season comes around, the Bengals will once again have the tools to run a high-flying aerial attack on offense.

A.J. Green is so good, it’s hard to remember he’s even on the field. Virtually every time a pass comes Green’s way, he comes down with the ball. He rarely talks, celebrates or drops passes, which is understandably a huge reason why he so often goes forgotten. It’s reassuring to know that if no matter what else happens with the Bengals’ offense, Green is still going to consistently beat double-teams week in and week out.

Andy Dalton is the real deal. He threw a couple of passes too high, but he was able to consistently move the ball down the field without Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Tyler Eifert — something many didn’t expect him to be able to do. He’s yet to do it in the regular season, so the narrative remains, but as of now, things are looking good for the sixth-year quarterback.

Russell Bodine’s inconsistency continues. The Bengals center leaves fans wanting more on so many plays, particularly in pass protection, which has understandably turned him into a scapegoat. But his ability to communicate with Dalton and his offensive line, call protections and run-blocking patterns, often goes unheralded. Many of this weekend’s plays — like defensive end Carl Nassib’s sack against the Falcons, in which he ran straight to the quarterback completely unblocked— remind me things could be much worse with a center who can’t recognize a blitz. And it’s no coincidence that when Bodine has a good play, Jeremy Hill has a great one — it’s happened now on multiple plays in both preseason games. If Bodine can play with better leverage and pick up opposing defenders just a little bit more quickly, Cincinnati’s offensive line will be in a lot better shape.

The Bengals need to heavily implement the I-formation in their 2016 offense. The only factor which seems to impact Hill as much as Bodine’s inconsistency is the formation the Bengals choose to run out of. And while opponents generally expect a run coming their way when Cincinnati lines up in I-formation, they usually can’t stop it. Ryan Hewitt wasn’t perfect, but he made a couple of nice impact blocks and seemed to thrive when his team ran up the gut rather than to the outside.

Cincinnati fans will miss Andre Smith a lot more than they previously thought they’d miss him. The Jake Fisher injury, though likely not severe, certainly didn’t help the Bengals’ tackle position, which has already been struggling to stay healthy and play well in a game. In the grand scheme of things, the mutual parting was the right decision for the long-term, but in 2016, I think Cincinnati’s first-year starter — whomever it may be — will struggle.

C.J. Uzomah missed a huge opportunity. With Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft both absent from action, the number three tight end on the team’s current depth chart didn’t even seem to get a single target. He’s still a lock for the roster, but Uzomah needs to make some plays if he wants to surpass Kroft on the depth chart by opening day.

Rex Burkhead is officially on the NFL’s radar. On the latest installment of the Orange and Black Insider, I tabbed Burkhead as a guy who needed to have a big game, and he did just that in Detroit. Entering a contract year, Burkhead needs to prove himself as a guy who is capable of being a number one or two back in order to earn his payday next offseason. His brilliance against the Lions was a great start. I’d also be remiss not to mention he’s quickly becoming one of the best special teamers in Cincinnati. Not that the Bengals are going to do this, but I think it would be possible for them to cut ties with Peerman and roll with three running backs to make room on the roster for a player at a different position simply because Burkhead is that good on special teams. However, Peerman, like Burkhead, is one of the best 53 players on the Bengals’ roster. He’ll stick around.

Trey Hopkins and Alex Redmond looked like the best of the rest on the offensive line. Both players held their own in pass protection and made a couple of nice plays in the run game. But with the highs also come lows: both of the two linemen also had a play or two in which they were badly beaten.

John Peters looked lost in his limited snaps. The reserve tight end whiffed a couple of times on run plays and wasn’t a factor in the passing game. On the bright side, Matt Lengel (Peters’ competition for the practice squad) didn’t do much, only hauling in one pass for seven yards on a single target.


Michael Johnson has quietly been tearing things up this preseason. He followed up an excellent Week 1 with an even better Week 2, looking like his old self. Johnson reads run plays better than perhaps any of his teammates, containing the outside and forcing runners inside, into the welcoming arms of Geno Atkins and company.

Domata Peko certainly isn’t flashy, but he’s still a huge upgrade over his backups. That’s not a shot at Peko’s play; the longtime starter made a couple of great plays to stop opposing ball-carriers from breaking into open space. Peko was good, but his backups were not. Pat Sims and DeShawn Williams struggled against the run and pass. Sims was pancaked on one play and got manhandled in multiple other run plays. And aside from one great play in which he recorded a quarterback hit, the defensive tackle was a non-factor against the pass.

DeShawn Williams was just as bad (if not worse) in Game 2 as Margus Hunt was in Game 1. The 2015 preseason standout got caught offsides, was a complete non-factor against the pass and completely abandoned his gap in the run game multiple times. In the Bengals’ gap-oriented run defense, Paul Guenther can’t afford to play guys who don’t maintain gap integrity.

Karlos Dansby is much quicker than the departed Emmanuel Lamur. It’s surprising, and honestly quite refreshing, to see a 33-year-old move around the field so well. He and Vontaze Burfict should be able to team up very well in nickel packages when the latter returns to action.

Josh Shaw took first-team snaps. He won’t necessarily be a first-team corner, but it looks like the second-year defensive back will be the backup slot corner. Darqueze Dennard’s injury-plagued NFL career has been disappointing to fans, but it’s likely 10 times more frustrating for the player himself. Hopefully he can return to action soon.

Shawn Williams is who many have expected him to be. The first-year at starter is a punishing tackler, but he hasn’t looked great in coverage. On a play many have wrongfully blamed Dre Kirkpatrick for, Williams blew his coverage and allowed his former teammate, Jones, to haul in a virtually uncontested deep strike.

Margus Hunt redeemed himself in Game 2. He tallied a couple quality quarterback rushes, sniffed out a screen pass — forcing a throw-away by standing directly in front of the running back — and was excellent on special teams. Brandon Tate’s 36-yard kickoff return would’ve been a 20-yarder or worse if not for the Estonian’s huge block which created a wide open seam for the return man. One whipping boy helping another whipping boy out — now that’s what I like to see!

Will Clarke’s biggest flaw is his lack of gap integrity. The third-year defensive end has looked solid in limited time aside from one huge fatal flaw: he consistently takes bad angles. I haven’t seen enough of his tape against play-action, but I’d assume he struggles there as well. There’s still plenty of time for Clarke to improve on this, especially considering it’s an issue of changing the way he thinks during a game. That being said, it’s a major issue which will haunt the Bengals if it isn’t fixed soon — because aside from his lack of gap integrity, Clarke looks like a pretty good player.

Vincent Rey is looking like one of the best backups in the NFL. I’m not sure why he played so late into the game, but the linebacker was flying all over the field when he was facing Detroit’s second-stringers. It’s reassuring to know Rey, who could potentially start on a few other teams, is the guy backing up Burfict rather than a younger, more inexperienced player.

Derron Smith has Dan Orlovsky in his back pocket. His pick-six was a thing of beauty.

Marquis Flowers was playing with the third-string defense. I don’t have much of a take here, because he looked pretty good when he was on the field. I’m curious why the linebacker doesn’t get more opportunities in nickel packages, as he looks capable of playing a potential hybrid linebacker/safety role.

Ryan Brown left more to be desired after a nice first game. The undrafted defensive end has a quick first step, but he doesn’t have the arsenal to get past an opposing offensive lineman. He beat his opponents off the line several times but was unable to even touch a Lions quarterback. Brown also left his gap and surrendered a sizable run on one play in particular. A year on the practice squad, in which he can refine his technique and work on his pass-rushing moves, looks like a perfect option for Brown.

Special Teams

Fans are very justified in their frustrations with Mike Nugent. The kicker publicly admitted his own frustration with the way things shook out in Detroit soon after the game ended. Seeing Lions kicker Matt Prater on the opposite side of the field was just salt in the wound. Prater was released by the Broncos midway through the 2014 season after converting 25 of 26 field goals in 2013 (leading the league in field goal percentage). The Lions quickly picked him up after he cleared waivers, as they were struggling with kicking problems of their own at the time. Prater struggled early in his Lions career but has been incredibly dependent since then, sending 22 of 24 attempts through the uprights in 2015.

Shaw and James Wright were the gunners on the Bengals’ first punt. This means only good things for Wright, as the fan favorite is clearly gaining an upper-hand on his competition. From the way things are currently looking, I expect him to join Green, LaFell Boyd, Tate and Core on the Bengals’ 53-man roster. Whether he’s able to climb up the depth chart, however, remains to be seen.

Clayton Fejedelem might actually have the upper-hand on Jimmy Wilson. The rookie looked pretty good on special teams while the veteran, along with Darius Hillary, left Alex Erickson out to dry on a punt return. Speaking of...

Alex Erickson overcame bad special teams play from his teammates for the second straight week. Wilson and Hillary, as I just mentioned, were tasked with creating the seam in which Erickson would attempt to run through. Instead, the two completely whiffed, leaving Erickson susceptible to a potentially injury-threatening hit. Fortunately, the rookie juked a would-be tackler and gained 30 yards on the return.

Everything Else

Marvin Jones surprisingly fits the mold as a potential number one wide receiver. Jones played second-fiddle to Green throughout his time in Cincinnati, so we never truly got to see what he looks like as the top option. Take his performance with a grain of salt, as it was in limited snaps, but Jones looked great. Hopefully he can help Detroit compete in what should be a loaded NFC North this season.

Matthew Stafford is lucky to unharmed. It’s up to the quarterback and center to identify opposing fronts and audible into the proper protection. When you leave a reserve tight end in a one-on-one matchup with Carlos Dunlap, who tallied 13.5 sacks last season, you’re going to have a bad time.

The NFL needs to do away with its on-field microphones. Maybe it’s just the fact I watched the game after the fact, but I heard multiple blatant profanities from players on the field. Obviously there’s no changing the way players speak, so maybe it’s best to cut down on the microphone usage.

The NFL needs to sell the patent for whatever material it creates its jerseys with to the United States military. It also needs to reimburse all fans who purchase so-called “authentic” jerseys, because there’s no way I could do this to my jersey without ripping a hole in it, let alone preventing it from getting untucked: