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3 ways Bengals defense can prove it’s better than what we’ve seen early in preseason

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The Bengals exhibited plenty of room for improvement in their second preseason game.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals’ preseason loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was a difficult game all around for Cincinnati fans to watch. In addition to an ineffective offensive strategy, the defense looked absolutely lost against the Chiefs’ young, athletic roster. That said, the offense showed some flashes throughout the night as did the young pass rushers.

The Chiefs’ quarterbacks were sacked a total of three times and hit eight times. It is a very positive thing for a team that struggled to apply consistent pressure last year (19th in sacks - 33). However, it wasn’t enough to keep the team from allowing the Chiefs to put up more than 400 yards of total offense and 30 points. As the Bengals prepare to take on the Washington Redskins this Sunday in their third preseason game, the defense will need to focus on these key areas to prove their disappointing preseason Week 2 performance was a fluke, especially as far as the starters are concerned after back-to-back games of allowing opposing offenses to march down the field.

Buckle down against the run

The Bengals allowed 228 yards to the Chiefs’ rushing attack. Five Chiefs players (Charcandrick West, Kareem Hunt, Patrick Mahomes II, C.J. Spiller, and Tyreek Hill) averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry. West, Mahomes, and Hill, in particular, all averaged at least 9.7 yards per carry. Yes, the Bengals’ pass defense will require improvement after allowing four touchdowns (see below), but their porous effort against the run game requires immediate attention. Yes, this is the preseason, but it would be great for the Bengals’ defense to step up this week and show that this isn’t an area about which fans need to be concerned.

Wrap up the ball carrier

Part of the Bengals’ problem against the run was the inability to finish tackles. The team’s tackling was inconsistent at best and absolutely putrid at worst on Saturday. Missed assignments, poor angles, and a lack of attention to technique were big reasons the team allowed more than 400 yards of total offense. The weakness was on full, frustrating display in this 25-yard run from Hunt which set up the Chiefs’ first touchdown near the end of the first quarter.

Featured in this video: missed tackles by Andrew Billings, Vontaze Burfict, and Shawn Williams, in addition to quite a few missed assignments and bad angles. This play was just one of many examples of the Bengals’ poor tackling throughout the night. Missed tackles have plagued the Bengals for years, so displaying a continuation of that trend is worrisome, even if it is just the preseason. That’s also a worry because it’s been reported the Bengals didn’t practice tackling at all in training camp due to safety concerns. What’s funny is that youth football safety best practices include practicing tackling on a weekly basis to learn proper form and ability. You’d think the Bengals would want to do the same.

Mix up the coverage packages

Despite excelling at rushing the passer on Saturday, the Bengals’ pass coverage looked like it needed some major help. Granted, losing Williams to a brutal-looking elbow injury on the first play of the second half was a big blow for the secondary. But, that still doesn’t excuse allowing Alex Smith to complete five passes on seven attempts for 66 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. Part of the problem was the Bengals’ inconsistent tackling allowing some big plays in the passing game. But, predictable packages leading to blown coverage certainly didn’t help matters and led to 182 passing yards and four touchdowns in the air. Again, this is the preseason and vanilla play calling is to be expected, but should we be concerned?

There were a few bright spots in pass coverage. Reserve cornerback Bene Benwikere managed to record three tackles and two pass deflections in 35 snaps. As a whole, the secondary looked rough, but linebacker Nick Vigil displayed some prowess in pass coverage.

If the Bengals can focus more of their coverage packages to suit their strengths, like Vigil’s ability to cover short-to-mid range passes, it could be much more difficult for opposing quarterbacks to pick this team apart.

Maybe Paul Guenther is saving his real plans for the regular season—he likely is—but it would be nice to see the Bengals’ defense come out looking strong and determined to stop Kirk Cousins and company on Sunday afternoon in the preseason dress rehearsal.