Despite an impressive performance from the starters on Sunday, the Bengals’ backups were unable to hold on to a sizable lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They allowed an 18-point comeback in the second half, being shut out 15-0 in the fourth quarter alone. The Jaguars walked away with a 26-21 win, although the fact that it was a preseason game means that the final score isn’t the primary takeaway.
The Bengals built up their lead with really good performances from many starters recording impressive grades from our friends at Pro Football Focus. In particular, Ryan Hewitt (84.2), Geno Atkins (81.6), Dre Kirkpatrick (80.3), Andrew Whitworth (77.1), Russell Bodine (76.1), and Kevin Zeitler (75.2) performed the best. In addition, despite an overall awful performance from the backups, some backups performed admirably like DeShawn Williams (82.2), AJ McCarron (80.5), Marquis Flowers (80.4), and Will Clarke (79.2).
Recording six completions and a touchdown on ten attempts, Andy Dalton’s 107.5 quarterback rating should be regarded as a pretty great day for the Bengals’ starting quarterback. However, PFF notes that Dalton attempted three deep passes and completed none of them. All of his completions happened within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, so despite leading the offense to the endzone on two of his three drives, he received an average grade from PFF (55.1).
As good of a game as Dalton had on the stat sheet, backup quarterback AJ McCarron had an even better day recording eight completions on 12 attempts for 107 yards and a touchdown, despite being sacked twice. That was good for a 122.6 quarterback rating and a very good grade from PFF (80.5). PFF notes that the main thing separating the two players is McCarron attempting two deep passes, connecting on both. The fact that he was able to perform better with much less impressive offensive line play is also key.
Three of the Bengals’ five top rated offensive players were linemen, allowing Dalton to only be sacked once and pressured three times. The line also helped Giovani Bernard to an impressive 9.0 yards per carry. Jeremy Hill was less impressive with 2.6 yards per carry, but he made up for it by getting into the endzone for a touchdown. McCarron was sacked twice and under pressure 11 times.
Geno Atkins was the top rated defensive starter, despite only recording a single tackle on the game. However, that tackle was an important one, allowing only a short gain on the play. It was his ability to pressure the quarterback that really stood out for the Bengals. He recorded two pressures on 13 rushes and managed to hit the quarterback twice while on the field. Don’t forget this impressive pancake on Luke Joeckel early in the game.
Despite the Bengals’ second half meltdown, there were a few backup defensive players whom PFF praised for their performances. In particular, Marquis Flowers made his case to make the final roster by recording two impressive tackles, both of which appeared to help the Bengals stop the Jaguars in their tracks before defensive breakdowns led to a key touchdown drive for the Jaguars. Regardless, he performed well and received a good grade (80.4) for his efforts.
Will Clarke (79.2) has been a bright spot for the Bengals at backup defensive end all preseason and reinforced that with a tackle and a pass deflection on Sunday. In one case, he stopped T.J. Yeldon dead in his tracks for a mere one yard gain. In the other case, he batted a pass from Chad Henne down that helped lead to the Bengals forcing a punt on an early third quarter drive.
Finally, it was DeShawn Williams (82.2) who walked away with the best performance of all backups. In the process of recording a tackle and a pass deflection, he recorded three pressures on Chad Henne. His one tackle was also on Chad Henne, after a scrambling attempt. Williams stopped him after two yards. He should have a pretty good chance to make the team with a performance like that.