The Cincinnati Bengals’ 30-12 preseason loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday was a rough one. The team didn’t score a single touchdown all day and looked absolutely abysmal on defense in the second and third quarters. The running game looked mostly stagnant, the quarterbacks were constantly under pressure, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes II looked more like Tom Brady in midseason form against the Bengals’ porous defense.
That said, we would be remiss if we ignored the players who did look good on Saturday. There weren’t a lot of great performances, but the team did walk away with a few areas to build on.
Chris Smith continued to look good
When the Bengals sent a conditional seventh round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Smith back in April, the move generally flew under the radar. The former fifth round pick was a decent reserve defensive end with the Jaguars, but he never played more than seven games in a season and never recorded more than eight tackles in a season in his three years in Jacksonville.
However, Smith has been one of the most talked about Bengals players in training camp, backing up his popularity in his first preseason game by recording three tackles (one solo, one for a loss) and two QB hits in 32 total snaps.
The Bengals’ defense generally looked awful on Saturday, but Smith played as well as ever. He only received 22 snaps on the day, and recorded one sack and one tackle for a loss in the process. And, he was in the backfield continually, making his presence felt even when it didn’t show on the boxscore. At this rate, Smith will establish himself as the clear-cut best option for one of the final defensive end spots and who knows what his ceiling is from there.
Jeremy Hill looked solid
Life in the NFL has been rough for Hill in recent years. His stellar rookie season in 2014 (1,124 yards and nine touchdowns on 222 carries) feels like a lifetime ago after failing to come close to the 1,000-yard mark in either of his last two seasons.
2017 is a contract year for Hill, so he needs to step it up this year if he wants to maintain any hope of retaining his starting role with the team. He looked decidedly average in camp and didn’t look particularly impressive against the Buccaneers in the first week of the preseason (26 yards on seven carries). Tra Carson’s performance (4.0 yards per carry) and Joe Mixon’s performance (5.2 yards per carry) certainly didn’t help matters as Hill looked like an old, slow veteran trying to hold off two young players full of potential.
That is not, however, what things looked like on Saturday. Although Hill only received six carries, he recorded 28 yards on his few opportunities, averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. Carson averaged 3.0 yards on eight carries and Mixon averaged even worse (2.7 yards per carry), though he still managed to somehow look good while doing that. Mixon also managed to make an impact with a 15 yard catch on his only target in the passing game.
But, Hill certainly looked like the best pure runner on Saturday. More performances like that will encourage the Bengals to emphasize his role in the offense this year.
The Bengals have two really good kickers
Although it once seemed like the kicking competition was merely a formality while fifth round Draft pick Jake Elliott adjusted to the NFL, incumbent Randy Bullock looks determined to not be swept aside. Both Elliott and Bullock were a perfect 2/2 on attempted field goals on Saturday, although Bullock nailed a 47 yarder, while Elliott’s longest was 39 yards.
Elliott struggled in his first month of practice with the Bengals, but it seems like he has reeled in his erratic tendencies this summer and has yet to miss a kick this preseason. That said, the Bengals have been testing Bullock’s range more. It is hard to say exactly what that means for the Bengals’ long-term plans at kicker. But, it should go without saying the presence of two roster-worthy kickers on the team is a very good problem for the Bengals to have.
Ultimately, the Bengals’ few bright spots can’t make up for how generally awful the team looked on Saturday. But, it is always nice to remember the positive aspects and look forward to the Bengals building on that as the regular season nears.