The Bengals played their first preseason game on Thursday and got off to a hot start with a win.
The first-team offense played well overall, minus a slip from John Ross that led to an Andy Dalton pick six. There were some good performers on the defense as well, although most of them were people who the Bengals expected to perform well.
It would be nice to see the Bengals’ backup defenders perform better in the remaining preseason games, but the starters played well.
Here are five players who impressed in the first preseason game, four of whom made a strong push for the 53-man roster, while the other was a lock to begin with.
1. QB Jeff Driskel
This is a combination of both how well Driskel played and how poor quarterback Matt Barkley played. Driskel earned the right to take snaps with more of the starters during the next preseason game and may have just earned a leg up in the backup QB competition. Driskel offers intriguing potential with his phenomenal athleticism and good arm strength. He still has room to grow compared to Barkley who has been in the league longer and started in actual NFL games. Thriving in the preseason is the best way that Driskel can establish himself and win the backup job; he got off to a great start.
2. OG Christian Westerman
The Bengals still have a hole to fill at the right guard spot and the player who many believe is not getting enough of a shot at the job is offensive guard Christian Westerman. Westerman was rated by some draft analysts as a day 2 prospect when he was coming out of Arizona State in 2016. He fell to the Bengals in the fifth round and has hardly been used since his arrival. In the first preseason game, Westerman worked exclusively at left guard. Hopefully, after his good performance in the outing, the team will work on getting him some snaps at right guard with the first team offense.
3. CB KeiVarae Russell
Coming into training camp, Russell was a player thought to be battling for one of the last spots at a position fairly deep with talented players. In the first preseason game, he was aggressive in coverage and was able to stick with his guy well. He was even able to get an interception as it looked like he was running the route better than the wide receiver. With injuries hitting the depth guys at cornerback and rookies coming along slowly, Russell is locking himself into a spot on the roster for the third straight year. A couple more good performances and he will have earned that roster spot over a guy like Josh Shaw.
4. QB Andy Dalton
Last year in the preseason, the Bengals’ first team offense never scored a single touchdown. The Bengals immediately removed that pressure this year by having a great first game with the first team offense. It was a terrific start to the real Bill Lazor era in Cincinnati. With a revamped offensive line and added weapons, Dalton needed to step it up this year and in the first game, he started hot. If we remove the throw to John Ross where Ross tripped over his own feet, Dalton had a near-perfect outing. It’s the preseason, but it’s what you want to see.
5. WR Auden Tate
The real star of the first preseason game was the Bengals’ seventh round rookie wide receiver, Auden Tate. He made two spectacular grabs, one of which was a touchdown to take the lead. Tate showed his jump ball skills and why he deserves a roster spot even as a one-trick pony. The hope is that Tate carries his great performance into more preseason games against players who will actually be on a roster when the regular season rolls around.