In their limited exposure, the Bengals starting offense and defense showed us the potential they have in two crucial areas this preseason. They can push the ball down the field in the passing game, and they can rush the passer with just four rushers on defense. Three specific players helped solidify these strengths over the past month.
Wide receiver A.J. Green, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Carl Lawson all shined in August in the Bengals 3-1 preseason performance, and each made Pro Football Focus’ All-Preseason team. The list is compiled of mostly starters around the league, and the Bengals boast some of the more well known names.
Green, finishing with a grade of 89.7, only had seven catchable targets come his way, but caught every one of them. He capped off his usual impressive work with a touchdown in Week 3 against Buffalo when he played most of the first-half. His volume work didn’t stand out due to limited snaps, but Green was one of the more efficient stars in the preseason, and that’s what grades high at PFF.
Speaking of efficiency, the duo of Atkins and Lawson had that in spades last month, and finished with grades of 91.1 and 89.8, respectively. Atkins finished with two sacks and five hurries in just 29 pass rushing-snaps, and Lawson had four sacks, three QB hits and two hurries in his 48 pass-rushing snaps. Lawson played further into each game with the second-team defense, and took advantage each week when he was faced with backup offensive tackles.
Atkins only played a handful of drives with the defense in total, but his dominance was on full display each of the three games he played in. For years he was underpaid even on a second-contract, now he’s getting compensated like the elite talent he still is.
Fellow pass rushers Sam Hubbard and Jordan Willis were previously honored with PFF’s preseason Week 2 team of the week, and cornerback William Jackson is still PFF’s unofficial son. The Bengals defense (and Green of course) looks to be more than just improved strengths of the team under new coordinators: they look ready to take the league by storm.