The Cincinnati Bengals won their first game of the preseason against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and there were a lot of great showings by some young Bengals players. That’s something that unfortunately hasn’t been too common in the last year or two. It was just one preseason game so it isn’t like we know that these guys are going to be bona fide stars, but still, what we saw was encouraging. Many of the young Bengals are going to make decisions tough on the coaches when roster cuts roll around in just a few short weeks.
Without further ado, here are our top three takeaways from the Bengals’ win over the Buccaneers.
1. Jeff Driskel is doing his best to force the Bengals to keep 3 QBs
Driskel was a guy a lot of people had marked down as a definite cut casualty due to the Bengals rarely keeping three quarterbacks on the roster. However, with his athleticism he had the potential to show out in preseason, and that he did. With AJ McCarron on the roster, it’s hard to see Driskel as anything better than the third string quarterback, but on Friday night he really impressed, enough to think he could be a serviceable #2. In the first preseason game he definitely made the decision on whether or not to cut him a lot harder and may be forcing the Bengals to keep three quarterbacks again in 2017. He showed the wheels that got him compared to Tim Tebow, but unlike Tebow, he also played well using his arm. He adds a different element to this offense than Dalton or McCarron with his athleticism and sometimes that is enough to squeak out the few wins a backup quarterback may need to attempt.
2. Joe Mixon looks like the real deal and should have a big impact early on
Joe Mixon could easily end up being the best running back to come out of this draft. While normally that wouldn’t be saying much, this past draft class was absolutely stacked with running backs and with his talent, Mixon could easily be the top player among them. He showed his talent on Friday making defenders miss and displaying the timing and hesitation to spring off big runs. He didn’t run a ton of routes, but he caught the ball well in his one opportunity to do so and looks to be ready to take on a big workload as a featured three-down back. He likely won’t be a three-down back soon with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard in the fold. But the Bengals simply will not be able to keep such a playmaker off-the-field.
3. Defensive end veterans are on watch with the emergence of Jordan Willis and Chris Smith
Chris Smith was kind of the forgotten man a week or so ago. We hadn’t heard that much about him early in camp, so many Bengals fans assumed he wasn’t going to make the roster after getting traded by Jacksonville to Cincinnati earlier this year. Well, in the first preseason game Smith certainly played like his job was on the line. He was absolutely ferocious getting after the quarterback and running back. He had no sacks, but he had a litany of pressures and seemed to live in the backfield. Then on top of Smith’s great performance, there also was a great performance from Jordan Willis who showed something we hadn’t seen from a Bengals defensive end in a while and that was the ability to win the edge with speed. He was running right around the tackles and ended up getting a sack doing just that. As he adds more moves to his arsenal he will become more and more dangerous as that outside work could be deadly with an added inside move.
The Bengals’ first preseason game offered a lot of reasons to be hopeful regarding the Bengals’ young players. They played great and hopefully will continue to carry that momentum as they head toward the regular season.
On top of that we still haven’t seen the Bengals’ first round pick in live action. John Ross was finally cleared for full contact this week and looks to be very exciting for the future of this team. After fully practicing for the first time on Monday there is a slim chance he gets to play in the second preseason contest, but it is more likely he plays in the third preseason game on August 27 against Washington.
The first preseason game offered a lot of reason for optimism, and hopefully that will continue throughout the preseason and regular season.