What happened: Cincinnati completed its preseason schedule with a 27-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday. Cincinnati nearly finished with their third undefeated preseason in franchise history — joining the 2006 team and the 1971 squad that finished 5-0-1. Perhaps failing to achieve preseason perfection is for the best, as they failed to secure winning records during their respective regular seasons following undefeated preseason action. Of course, preseason records are about as meaningful to the regular season as water beds are to sleep.
A position battle decided: Bengals quarterback Matt Barkley started the game on Thursday but exited with 10:58 remaining in the first quarter after defensive end Kemoko Turay crashed into his left knee. Barkley was immediately declared out — an indication that it could be a serious knee injury.
Even so, Jeff Driskel should be named the team’s backup quarterback on merit alone, orchestrating three touchdown drives in the first half. During their two minute offense in the first half, Driskel completed a pair of impressive passes to Auden Tate — a 26-yarder that converted a third-and-11 — and Josh Malone — a 20-yard touchdown with two seconds remaining in the first half, which helped give Cincinnati a 20-7 halftime lead.
Jeff Driskel to Auden Tate connection, converting a third-11 with a 26-yard completion. pic.twitter.com/WPqIR9Sgi9— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 31, 2018
Jeff Driskel with a 20-yard TD to Josh Malone and two seconds remaining, completing a 13-play, 85-yard drive that began with 2:17 left in the first half. pic.twitter.com/W9rvks6ERb— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 31, 2018
Driskel finished with 14 of 20 passing (70 percent) for 116 yards passing and a touchdown. With an impressive preseason, the third-year quarterback completed 65.5 percent of his passes (38/58) for 448 yards passing and two touchdowns. Logan Woodside played the entire second half.
Rotation of offensive linemen: With the exception of Cordy Glenn, Clint Boling, and Billy Price, the Bengals heavily rotated their entire offensive line. Alex Redmond started his second consecutive game at right guard, joined by Bobby Hart at right tackle. Jake Fisher, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Trey Hopkins rotated around, joined by Christian Westerman at right guard, then back at left guard, while Brad Lundblade shifted around. Even tackle Kent Perkins took snaps at guard. At this point, we’re thinking Redmond will start the season at right guard, joined by Hart, while Hopkins will be the backup right guard and center.
Defensive linebackers make a case: Malik Jefferson, as a former third-round pick, is a lock. He made a handful of plays, including this fourth down stop at midfield.
Malik Jefferson with a stop on fourth-one at midfield (5:44 remaining in the second). pic.twitter.com/990boMeRvs— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) August 31, 2018
Jefferson finished with four tackles and two passes defensed. Hardy Nickerson had a decent game, leading the Bengals with seven tackles, one for loss, and a fumble recovery.
The bottom line: The preseason is over and players looking to stay in the NFL submitted their final auditions. After dozens of practices and four preseason games, the fate of many are now in the hands of their coaches.
What’s next: Cincinnati will spend the next two days determining their first (of many) variations of the team’s 53-man roster, prior to the league’s mandated deadline of Saturday at 4 p.m. (ET). Hundreds of recently waived players will be available through waivers on Sunday, providing Cincinnati additional opportunities to improve their roster. In other words, the 53-man roster on Saturday likely won’t be the same as the 53-man roster on Monday.