Saturday night saw the Cincinnati Bengals have one of their worst preseason performances in recent memory. The Kansas City Chiefs controlled the game from start to finish and cruised to an easy 30-12 win.
Here is a look at tonight’s winners and (mostly) losers:
Alex Erickson finally had his breakout NFL game as a pass-catcher. The ace returner hasn’t done much in the pass-catching department up to this point in his career, but that changed in a big way against the Chiefs.
Erickson’s highlight of the night came on a 31-yard reception towards the end of the first quarter to put the Bengals in field-goal range. It would have been the longest catch in the preseason or regular season during his rookie campaign, as he was rarely featured in the passing game in 2016.
However, Erickson has consistently drawn praise this offseason for his improved pass-catching and ability to get open now that he knows the playbook. There was almost no chance he wasn’t making the final roster, even if he were to have a poor preseason showing, but this should al but lock up his spot on the final squad.
While the defense as a whole struggled, Nick Vigil was a rare bright spot on Saturday night for the Bengals. Vigil was all over the field against the Chiefs, making plays in the backfield and in coverage that we rarely see from other linebackers in this defense.
Nick Vigil almost made a fantastic play pic.twitter.com/agVelrQBFr— Joe (@JoeGoodberry) August 20, 2017
Vigil looked like the best linebacker on the field for the Bengals on Saturday. He looks well on his way to locking down that starting strong side linebacker spot, which he should keep for a long time.
Another week, another big outing by Chris Smith. The veteran defensive end looks well on his way to keeping his roster spot with the Bengals, who sent a mere conditional seventh-round pick to Jacksonville for his services.
Now, Smith looks like the second-best end on this roster behind only Carlos Dunlap. That’s how tremendous Smith has played in through two preseason games while seemingly living in opponents’ backfields.
Chris Smith with an inside win from LDE. First sack for him in an impressive two games. Needs to be on the roster. pic.twitter.com/LYBOpss80L— Joe (@JoeGoodberry) August 20, 2017
Smith should have his roster spot secured, even if the coaches think it’s still in question with guys like Michael Johnson, Wallace Gilberry and Will Clarke challenging him. Smith has looked vastly superior to them early on in the preseason.
No one lost more tonight than Shawn Williams, who is potentially in danger of missing the 2017 season after suffering a gruesome elbow injury. Williams is at least going to miss an extended amount of time early in the regular season, but it’s more likely he ends up on I.R.
The question is, will it be bad enough to end his season, or will he be a candidate to get the Injured Reserve with the designation to return during the second half of the regular season?
Either way, Williams is out for the foreseeable future, which is terrible news for the starting safety. He’s entering the second season of his 2016 five-year extension with the Bengals, which doesn’t have a lot of guaranteed money.
If whoever steps in for him plays better, perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Williams in Cincinnati. It’s unlikely his replacement will be an upgrade, but that’s what you’d say in most instances where starters lose their jobs because if injury.
Let’s hope that’s not the case here and Williams is able to return to action at a high level soon.
For the second straight week, Andre Smith was benched in favor of Trey Hopkins at right guard. Smith didn’t even play in the first preseason game due to coaches’ decision, as it appeared the coaches wanted an extended look at Hopkins, which he did well in.
That was the case again this week, but not so much for Smith. He finally got some preseason reps, but they were less than encouraging. It began with Smith being late on the field for the field goal unit, which forced the Bengals to use a timeout to get situated.
Not a good look for Andre Smith. Already on second team and forgets to go in on FG unit. Bengals burn patented first-drive timeout.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 19, 2017
Smith didn’t get any actual reps until the second half once the entire second-team offensive line was in, and he didn’t impress much then either. He’s not on the roster bubble, but he doesn’t look close to winning a starting job either.
Despite being one of the few experienced tackles on this team, Eric Winston continues to trend closer and closer to the roster bubble. Winston has by no means been a quality lineman during his brief Bengals career, but he actually looks worse than ever this year.
Winston continues to be a liability in pass protection and is getting very little push in the run game. His only saving grace is that his only real competition happens to be Landon Lechler and Kent Perkins, neither of which looks ready to be on a 53-man roster.
However, Hopkins now looks like he’ll be the starting right guard, pushing Smith to being a backup swing tackle. That makes Winston more expendable, and so too does Hopkins being able to play either tackle spot, while other guards like T.J. Johnson or Christian Westerman could also vie for a spot at right guard.
Both Westerman and Johnson have looked like superior linemen to Winston thus far. Let’s hope the Bengals make the smart call and keep their best linemen, which Winston clearly isn’t one of.
The Bengals have been consistently bad on defense this preseason--especially the starters. For the second straight week, the starting defense looked like a scout team against the opposing offense. Sure, they only allowed a field goal both times, but it still was a poor showing in both accounts.
Both the Chiefs and Buccaneers walked right down the field with guys like Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict and Carlos Dunlap on the field. Pitiful tackling, busted coverages and a lack of consistent pressure made the starting defense looks like more of a weakness than a strength in both cases.
That kind of a night for the #Bengals. First, second, third string defense all can't stop a thing.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) August 20, 2017
The defense made Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt look like Jamaal Charles in his prime.
The Chiefs wanted to see how Kareem Hunt responded to big work with the starters. The answer: eight touches for 61 yards in the 1st quarter.— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) August 19, 2017
This definitely looks like a team who rarely did any real tackling in training camp or practice thus far. This unit has frankly looked pathetic through the first two weeks of the preseason, which is scary since we’re also two weeks away from the regular season starting.