The Cincinnati Bengals’ preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the tone for what the team is hoping will be a bounce-back season after a dismal 6-9-1 2016 campaign. The Bengals came away with a solid 23-12 victory, though it’s hardly the final score that matters.
Though the first team offense and defense both saw some issues, overall, it was a good team effort and the preseason is more about the backups than the starters anyway.
Andy Dalton went four-for-five for 38 yards, but unfortunately threw a red zone interception after leading the offense down the field on the first and only series for which he saw the field.
“We moved the ball really well rushing and passing," Dalton said after the game via Bengals.com. "It felt good to get back out there in a game situation, but you don’t like to turn the ball over, especially on the goal line. I just wish I could have that last play back.”
After completing passes to A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and Brandon LaFell, Dalton threw another pass intended for LaFell, but it was intercepted by Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves at the Tampa Bay one-yard line. It ended the drive and Dalton’s night.
Overall, head coach Marvin Lewis thought the first team offense did well and the team did “OK.”
“I thought our team did OK,” Lewis said after the game. “Our first-team offense looked sharp and crisp overall. But defensively, we are going to have to do better tackling the ball carrier and holding our opponents on third-downs.”
The first offensive drive for the Buccaneers featured big gains by Mike Evans, Doug Martin and C.J. Brate as Tampa Bay displayed why it’s receiving so much offseason hype.
“They moved the ball on us, but we held them in the red zone when it counted," said defensive end Carlos Dunlap. "That’s something to build on, and something to take pride in. We’ll live with that, but we’ll fix it, clean up the mistakes and not give up as many yards moving forward.”
Though the Buccaneers easily moved down the field, the Bengals’ starting defense did stop them the red zone on the opening drive and held them to a field goal to open up the scoring. After that, most of the starters departed, though guys like William Jackson III, Darqueze Dennard, Nick Vigil and Kevin Minter remained. Jackson and Dennard aren’t technically expected to be starters, though for Week 1 one of them will be. The duo of former first round cornerbacks is competing for Adam Jones’ starting role while the veteran is suspended to open the season.
The starters now have something to build on after Friday night’s performance. Green had 21 yards (going two-for-two), which was exciting to see and Tyler Eifert added a four-yard catch. But, we'll need to wait until the second preseason game, next Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, to see the Bengals’ starting offense score a touchdown. Hopefully the starting defense comes out better prepared in that contest, too. Even Geno Atkins seemed lost at one point on the opening drive.
But, this is the preseason after all. It’s a time to work out the kinks and get ready for a productive regular season.