The Bengals’ friendship with the Bills took a small hit on Sunday when Cincinnati left Buffalo with a 26-13 victory. But this was only a “meaningless” preseason game, so hopefully they won’t take it too hard.
The good guys looked very sharp in their “dress rehearsal” game before starting a two-game series with the Colts to end the preseason and kick off the regular season. With some starters playing most, if not all, of the first half, we finally have a good idea of what this team will look like in 2018, for better or for worse.
With the first-team exiting the game with a 20-0 lead, there was a lot to be excited about. There were also some concerns, but there’s still some time before the regular season starts. We’ll see what happens, but here’s what we have learned so far.
1) John Ross can be red hot...or ice cold
John Ross is still somewhat a mystery for Bengals fans since he has only logged 17 snaps in his NFL career. So far this preseason, he has shown that he has a high ceiling but a low floor.
There was no better way to start off the game than to see this gem on the first offensive snap of the game. The Bengals did just about everything right on this play. Andy Dalton had good protection, Ross blazed past former Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis, adjusted to the under-thrown ball, and then finished off the play by making two defenders miss.
John Ross looooooong TD on a stutter and go pic.twitter.com/yRgBBMIk2G— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 26, 2018
The only other time Dalton targeted Ross, this drop happened.
open look for ross on another RPO, but doesn’t want to use his hands pic.twitter.com/Vb7Itr8jtY— John Sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 27, 2018
Even though the ball was thrown forcefully, NFL receivers should be able to catch balls like that. If Ross uses his speed and ball skills to the best of his potential, he could be a machine. Once he gets his hands on the ball, he will be one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. The problem is getting his hands on it.
Ross has only caught four receptions on 12 targets this preseason, which gives him an abysmal catch rate. Drops have been a problem for him during training camp and his only regular season catch in 2017 ended in a fumble. So Ross’ hands could use some work.
But considering the fact that Ross is still basically a rookie, it’s not time to worry. If these problems keep cropping up, then it would be time to worry.
2) The offensive line issues are far from over
Its time to accept the fact that the right side of the offensive line will struggle mightily this year.
Bobby Hart appears to be the Week 1 right tackle for better or for worse. Alex Redmond was given the start at right guard in favor of Trey Hopkins, but was flagged twice early on. Hopkins was rotated in with the first team, which shows that the Bengals don’t have the utmost confidence in either player. Christian Westerman, who many feel has been the Bengals best offensive lineman this preseason, is seemingly out of the running to start at right guard.
The right side of the offensive line will likely be a mess, but the group as a whole is still an improvement over last year. In 2017, four of the offensive line spots were disastrous; this year it looks like that number is down to just two. Although the ideal number for troubled line positions is zero, two is still better than four.
Even with the improvements made, the Bengals still cannot create any holes for their running backs. Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard combined for 10 yards on 10 carries. The numbers speak for themselves.
3) The defensive line is is one of the best in the NFL
Last week, Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard were so strong that they made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week.
This week, Geno Atkins, Andrew Billings, and Carl Lawson set off the fireworks. Opposing quarterback Josh Allen was hit six times by this trio and was sacked five times. When Allen could get the ball out of his hands, he was six for 12 with 34 yards.
The starting defensive line was fun to watch. The Bills’ offensive line looked worse than the Bengals’, but all indications point to the defensive line being one of the best in the league when the season starts.