Week 3 of the preseason features the all-important dress rehearsal game.
If this was any indicator of what the Cincinnati Bengals will be in 2016, we're in for a fun year...at least as long as guys stay healthy. Outside of some notable injuries throughout the night, this was as good of a performance as you could ask from the starters on a Bengals team that looks ready for another run at the postseason.
The starters and second-stringers were impressive, but as the Bengals went deeper into their bench, the backups gave away a 21-3 lead as Cincinnati fell to Jacksonville.
Here is a look at our winners and losers from the Bengals' third preseason game.
This was another good showing by new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. His unit continues to look sharp and efficient during a time where finding both in any NFL offense is hard to come by.
Zampese's signature this preseason has been methodically long drives that kept the offense moving and the opposing team unable to do much of anything. The Bengals scored a touchdown on a short field their first drive.
Then came a drive that began at the 6:57 mark in the first quarter and ended 16 plays later at the 13:06 mark of the second quarter with a score. Death by a thousand cuts is the best way to describe how methodical Zampese and Dalton are running this offense right now.
This has easily been one of the most positive developments for the Bengals this preseason. Going from a great coordinator in Hue Jackson to a big unknown in Zampese seems to be going as well as possible.
The Bengals continue to rely on Jeremy Hill as their workhorse back. The third-year pro finished this game with 39 total yards on nine touches, including a one-yard touchdown run.
Hill was even involved in the passing game for a big play.
We're seeing more of the rookie Hill that was running through the NFL, not the one who struggled to gain four yards in 2015.
While Hill did his fair share of damage, Bernard made sure his presence was felt early and often. Bernard only touched the ball five times, but netted 52 yards and a score. 19 of those yards came on beautifully executed screen pass in which Bernard lined up at receiver.
Bernard is still the best back on this roster, but more so because of his route running and pass catching, which should have him lining up at receiver more frequently in 2016.
The preseason rise of Alex Erickson continued in Jacksonville as he makes his bid for a roster spot. Erickson reached the end zone in the third quarter on a 21-yard score from AJ McCarron.
Erickson would also chip in an 18-yard punt return. He got return opportunities on kickoffs and punts as the Bengals give him every chance to make the roster. It's gotten to the point where Erickson will likely be on someone's 53-man roster this year.
The only question is, will the Bengals make sure it's their own.
Just two weeks ago, I was ready to see Chykie Brown cut. The veteran corner looked like a lost rookie who had no business being near a 53-man roster, but Brown has bounced back in a big way over the last two preseason games.
Brown played very well against the Jaguars, in a game in which he was running with the starters after Adam Jones suffered a pre-game injury. Brown more than held his own while getting shots at covering Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.
Combined with a so-so performance by Darius Hillary, Brown now has the inside track at the sixth corner spot, at least if the Bengals keep that many. Given all of their injuries at corner, that could happen.
The Bengals and Injuries
"This team is just snake-bitten" sounds like something we may hear far too often in 2016 at the rate Cincinnati is going. Three 2016 Pro Bowl players were lost to injuries on Sunday night, one of which coming in pregame warm-ups.
Adam Jones injured his calf while warming up and missed the entire game. A.J. Green suffered a knee injury and was forced out of the game in the first quarter. And, Cedric Peerman broke his forearm in the second quarter.
No matter what happened in the game, those kinds of injuries to key players made this a rough night overall for the Bengals.
The Bengals endured several injuries in this game, but none were as serious as Cedric Peerman's broken forearm. The veteran running back was forced into more snaps due to Rex Burkhead sitting out with a minor injury, but Peerman ended up suffering what could be a season-ending injury.
This is a terrible way for any player to see his season potentially end, but it really stings for a veteran like Peerman. He's entering his eighth NFL season while turning 30 in October. He may only have a handful of years left in his tank, so it would be terrible to see one of them lost to injury.
The Fringe Backs
With Cedric Peerman's injury, the running backs on the roster bubble got a golden opportunity to fight for a spot on the 53-man roster. Tra Carson and Bronson Hill had flashes in the first two preseason games, but neither did much of anything in this one.
Carson finished the night with four yards on eight carries. Hill finished with -3 yards rushing on four carries, but did catch three passes for 13 yards.
Neither looked like a player ready to be a fourth-string running back on a 53-man roster. We may see another back added this week if the Bengals want to keep four legitimate backs on their 53-man roster.
What were your biggest takeaways from this game?