Feelings in Bengaldom are at an odd place right now. The team is sitting at 1-2 in the preseason, but showed some nice things on tape in their “dress rehearsal” against the Redskins. Couple that with an odd announcement of a suspension of one of their star players and fans’ heads are spinning.
Regardless, here is the best and worst from the Bengals’ 23-17 loss to the Redskins on Sunday afternoon.
The first-stringers: We wanted to see the Bengals’ starting offense get into the end zone and they did just that. A.J. Green looked impressive and Andy Dalton made nice throws in tough situations. The defense also stepped up in a variety of ways, including their star linebacker getting a pick-six.
Vontaze Burfict: After shedding some pounds this offseason, Burfict has looked impressive this preseason. The aforementioned pick-six was a thing of beauty and one that showed great athleticism. Unfortunately, after the game, the team received bad news for No. 55 as he is facing a five-game suspension.
Weapons, weapons, weapons: Even with Joe Mixon’s fumble, the teams’ offensive skill positions appear to be loaded. Mixon, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill all contributed to the running game, while rookie John Ross also had an exciting carry and Alex Erickson continues to step up as a viable option at receiver. If the Bengals give Dalton time, he’ll have numerous options to make plays—which was apparent on paper, but came to fruition on Sunday.
Randy Bullock stepping up: While the Bengals wanted to get younger and faster at a number of spots this offseason, one of the biggest question marks in 2017 was at kicker. Both Bullock and rookie Jake Elliott have played well this preseason, but Bullock continues to convert long attempts and seems to be the front-runner for the open position. The veteran hit a 53-yarder against Washington on Sunday, as well as converting an extra point.
Forcing turnovers: In terms of the defense creating opportunities for the offense, Paul Guenther’s unit definitely stepped up on Sunday. Burfict made life easy for them with his addition of six points, while Jordan Willis also forced a fumble to aid the cause. These are the plays that need to be made for the Bengals to have a bounce-back season in 2017.
The young pass-rushers: Chris Smith and Willis, two additions the team made this offseason via trade and draft, respectively, have been the best players of the preseason. Both had another sack against Washington, prompting thoughts of their potential roles in 2017.
Points coming at a premium: Even though the starting offense showed us some nice things, the Bengals still had trouble getting into the end zone. After the team suffered some serious injuries on offense last year, what we saw from the unit was often miserable as the season wore on.
That kind of reared its head again on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital. The offense and special teams units only contributed 10 points, which won’t be sustainable once the regular season begins. It’s just the preseason and there are a number of moving parts, but this isn’t something that can continue.
The kick return game: In short, there just wasn’t anything to write home about in this area. The team didn’t have a kickoff return longer than 18 yards, while no punt returner went for longer than seven yards. This is an area in which the team always likes being able to rely on the occasional big play to assist the offense, so guys like Erickson, Adam Jones and others will need to step up.
AJ McCarron: Cincinnati’s backup signal-caller has been the king of the preseason since he joined the team in 2014, but this has been a rough summer for the former college national champion. The Bengals reportedly received some lucrative trade offers for McCarron earlier this year that they balked at, but they might be regretting that decision.
After a poor showing in camp, McCarron hasn’t looked any more impressive in actual preseason games. He had a brutal interception which led to a Redskins touchdown and just doesn’t seem to exude the same confidence we’ve seen from him before.
He has actually had a horrible camp and been the worst of the 3 QBs... he's still the backup, but hasn't played well at all— Richard Skinner (@Local12Skinny) August 7, 2017
Lingering mistakes: The Bengals had two turnovers and missed a field goal against the Redskins on Sunday. Simply put, if the Bengals want to get back to the postseason, the margin for error is slim and they need to get points whenever possible. The preseason is the time to work the kinks out, but with a youthful infusion of talent to the roster, silly mistakes can’t be made in the regular season.
Jake Elliott: The consensus from most Bengals fans is they’d like to see the rookie win the open competition at kicker. While it’s been a tight race so far, Bullock just keeps hitting all of his kicks—especially long ones. Elliott missed a 45-yarder on Sunday, which won’t help his bid for the job.