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The good, the bad and the ugly in Bengals’ 36-23 loss to Cardinals

We look at some of the best and worst facets of Cincinnati’s 2022 preseason opening loss to Arizona.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals Albert Cesare / The Enquirer

There are specific things teams attempt to achieve in the preseason—particularly early in the summer. Giving significant snaps to rotational players and others grinding for a job is part-and-parcel of these games, as is prioritizing development over end scores.

We saw a little bit of everything—bad and good—from the Cincinnati Bengals in their Week 1 loss to the Cardinals. Here are the best and worst facets from their 36-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The good

Rookies, drafted and not, contributing early:

First-round defensive back Daxton Hill was extremely active on the evening, as his trial-by-fire continues with Jessie Bates III’s holdout. Zachary Carter made a couple plays and even dropped into coverage at one point, showing his versatility, while seventh-round pick Jeffrey Gunter notched a sack (his path to the final roster also got a little easier with Wyatt Hubert’s retirement announcement).

One player we’ve all been enamored with watching this preseason is Cordell Volson, who came in after Jackson Carman got the start at left guard and the rookie lineman held his own. And, finally for good measure, Kendric Pryor had a night, as there are seemingly a spot or two available at the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart.

Some open back-end roster spots showing quality competition:

As mentioned with Pryor, he impressed with a 22.3 yards per catch average, while Kwamie Lassiter II also continues to intrigue the staff with his versatility. They’re both gunning for a last spot in a talented wide receiving corps and answering previous depth concerns.

Some concerns about depth on the defensive line were also quelled with backups notching three sacks up front. There are other groups still needing to answer big questions, but seeing early progress from other certain position groups was a sight for sore eyes.

Money Mac:

What more is there to say? There’s no one-year wonder with this guy, that’s for sure. The second-year kicker amassed 11 total points on Friday, hitting both extra points and all three field goals—including a 58-yard boomer.

Current concerns stemming from mostly non-starters:

Few starters played on Friday, which is a wise decision for both this early in the season and because of how much of an impact roster health had on the Bengals last year. So while we nitpick on players and certain performances, the good news is the team that was on the field as starters or heavy rotators will not even closely resemble what we’ll see in a month against the Steelers.

Really, again, it’s just a testament to how far this team has come in a few, short years.

The Chris Evans ascension project:

As mentioned in our Winners and Losers post, the stat lines don’t do Evans’ performance justice. Bengals nation has been frothing at the mouth for a possible uptick in snaps for Evans this year and there were many glimpses of the electricity he’ll bring in 2022—even if some were called back on penalties.

We should see a lot of Giovani Bernard-type snap roles for Evans, with even a bit more kickoff returns as possibilities. Just give him the ball and let him do his thing.

Efficient stats lines for the backup quarterbacks:

The first preseason game is almost always filled with dry spells on offense and sometimes, painful outputs. While the Bengals didn’t get into the end zone until the final quarter, the collective stat line for the group of Cincinnati’s backup signal-callers wasn’t bad.

A 67% completion rate (22-of-33), 277 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions and a 105.0 rating were compiled by Brandon Allen, Jake Browning and Drew Plitt. Allen and Plitt didn’t miss a pass all evening (9-of-9).

Yes, Browning fumbled and the average completion was 8.9, but we’ve seen much uglier in preseason debuts.

The bad

Remaining depth questions at some other spots:

The offensive line continues to fall in this category (more on that in a minute), as do the tight ends. Thaddeus Moss had a tough night with two penalties, but also had three catches for 29 yards. Converted wide receiver Scotty Washington added in two catches, but there wasn’t much else from the group.

With Drew Sample continuing to be on the mend and Mitchell Wilcox leaving the game early, major questions remain in this group.

Some concerning news on Cam Taylor-Britt:

Shortly before the contest, we learned of a core injury for Taylor-Britt that is supposed to keep him sidelined for a while. When we interviewed him a few weeks ago, he was eager to climb up the depth chart, starting with special teams and earning niche roles on defense.

With many rookies impressing in their debuts, it would have been nice to see Taylor-Britt joining the fray. While it sounds like he’ll be ready for the regular season, he will be missing critical ramp-up time.

The ugly

Continued issues on the offensive line:

We’ll preface this that none of the big three offseason additions (Ted Karras, Alex Kappa and La’el Collins) played on Sunday, so extensive snaps were given to backup players. Even so, the Bengals plodded to 2.2 yards per carry (two big plays by Evans were negated by penalties) and the units teamed up to give up three sacks.

Unfortunately, the lone starter on the line, Jackson Carman, played well under hopes and expectations. Others we’ve seen bounce around the line at different spots and as spot-starters continued to show a lack of development, as well.

While Volson looked promising and that was a good take away from this group, it seems as if the team would be wise to scour the free agency open market and monitor the waiver wire over the next few weeks.

Major early/mid-game disparity favoring the opponent:

This may seem contradictory to some of the positive facets we pointed out, but the Bengals struggled to score points and were down 36-9 into the early parts of the fourth quarter. Browning and Plitt engineered back-to-back touchdown drives, but it was against the Cardinals’ preseason-opening, fourth quarter defensive units.

Cincinnati made it somewhat-respectable at the end, but this was a blowout in multiple ways throughout much of the game.