While the Cincinnati Bengals eventually gave up a 21-3 lead and suffered a loss in their third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday night, there’s no denying that the starting defense held strong for the second week in a row.
Cincinnati absolutely dominated the first half, giving up just 90 yards and three points.
The Bengals started the game off perfectly on defense, as they shut down Jacksonville’s very first drive when Rey Maualuga forced T.J. Yeldon to fumble, and Vincent Rey scooped it up and took it 16 yards the other way to put the offense in great position for a scoring drive.
The defense was a brick wall for the next two drives, as they forced back-to-back three-and-outs before Jacksonville was able to put up any kind of fight.
When Jacksonville finally did put a drive together, they went 66 yards on 12 plays, but with one huge play from Dre Kirkpatrick and a little luck (or misfortune for Jacksonville) the Bengals still managed to keep the Jags out of the end zone. After getting all the way down to the 1 yard line, the Jaguars had a potential touchdown pass broken up by Kirkpatrick, who made an outstanding play on the ball to save six points.
That kind of play is what we’re all hoping to see out of him this season, as Adam Jones is aging (and getting injured)and we are drawing nearer and nearer to the time where Kirkpatrick becomes the No. 1 cornerback on the depth chart. If he can consistently play the ball as well as he did here, that position will be in great hands.
Following that, the Jaguars committed consecutive penalties, one being failure to report as an eligible receiver, which nullified a once-in-a-lifetime touchdown reception for Jaguars linebacker Hayes Pullard. The Jaguars would eventually have to settle for a field goal on the long drive, their only three points of the first half.
The half continued in that dominant fashion for Cincinnati, as they forced another three-and-out, and on the last drive of the half Jacksonville shot themselves in the foot with a false start penalty to end the second quarter.
This defense has made a great deal of progress since their first preseason game. While the first unit hasn’t given up a ton of points at all this preseason, it’s clear that they have improved since allowing Teddy Bridgewater to throw a 49-yard touchdown pass during Week 1. Since then, the defense hasn’t given up a single first half touchdown, nor have they allowed any single play to go for that kind of big yardage. And for the overall yardage allowed, that has improved greatly as well. After giving up 145 yards in the first half to to Minnesota and 203 yards in the first half to Detroit, the 90 yards they gave up to Jacksonville has been the fewest thus far in the preseason, and is something to build on going into the regular season.
Not only has the defense shown an improvement in containing offenses, but they’ve shown improvement in forcing turnovers. In the second week of the preseason, Derron Smith recorded a pick-6 in the second quarter, and as mentioned before, Maualuga forced a fumble this week that cut the Jaguars’ very first drive short.
This starting defense looks how we hoped and expected they would right now. Despite losing some key players, they’re still looking like they’re capable of being the No. 2 scoring defense in the league again. It’s only the preseason, but if they continue to hold up this well it will be very difficult for opposing offenses to score on them in the regular season.