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Bengals Preseason Opener: The Good and Bad

CINCINNATI, OHIO - AUGUST 12: Evan McPherson #2 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up before a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at Paycor Stadium on August 12, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The Cincinnati Bengals played in their first preseason game at home against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night. Even though the Cardinals walked away with a 36-23 win, there was much to take away from this game. Check out the best betting on the NFL.

Remember that coaches primarily use preseason games to evaluate Individual performances in a game setting. Still, for players, it allows them a chance to execute their technique to prove they are good enough to make the roster. Both teams sat out most of their starters, giving fans a chance to see players’ talent outside of the first team.

All game and overall stats courtesy of ESPN

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Bengals players who stood out in the game

Talk about having a weapon; kicker Evan McPherson proved once again he is consistent when his number is called. McPherson made two amazing kicks from the 58 and 56-yard line. The fan-favorite kicker is looking to have another rock-solid performance this season.

Third-string running back Chris Evans made a case of why he should be used for more in the regular season. Evans had an impressive 63-yard run that showed off his break-away speed but got called back on a holding call. Evans again showcased his athletic ability in the return game with his 41-yard kickoff return. If these performances continue, he with make a serious case to take the RB2 duties from Samaje Perine.

Trent Taylor coming into his fifth year proved he can be counted on to return punts last year. He has reliable hands and makes good decisions. Taylor needed to show that he could be productive in the receiving game and did just that with four catches for 74 yards. Taylor wowed the fans with a terrific 36-yard catch showing he is much more than a punter turner. You can definitely throw his name into the conversation about being the fourth wide receiver if he continues to impress.

Rookies who had an impressive first game

During the after-game news conference with head coach Zac Taylor, he was asked about first-round pick Dax Hill and his performance in his first NFL game. Taylor said, “He jumped out at you; he made two really good plays, one down there in the low red (zone) and one on the field there on third down. Those are big-time plays, so that’s what stands out, and then you’ll evaluate the rest of it and see how he was. But that was exciting to see from Dax.”

With the absence of Jessie Bates, Hill is getting the extra reps in practice, which showed on Friday in the game. He looked confident and seemed to be around the ball every play. Except for a touchdown play, Hill had a good appearance, nearly picking off an interception, breaking up passes, and delivering a big-time hit to force an incompletion. With more reps, Hill could be an excellent addition to an already solid secondary.

Seventh-round draft picks usually have a long road ahead when trying to make the team, but defensive end Jeff Gunter out of Coastal Carolina made a statement early by having an impressive game. He has a relentless motor and knack for getting pressure on the quarterback. Gunter had a pass deflection early on and later recorded his first NFL sack late in the third quarter. If he continues at this pace, he could be a valuable rotation piece to the defense line and improve his chances of making the roster.

In an already talented Bengals receiving room, making the roster will be an uphill battle for players competing for those finals spots. Undrafted wideout receiver Kendric Pryor from Wisconsin is undoubtedly making a case on why he should make the roster. Pryor finished the game with an impressive four catches for 89 yards and one touchdown while displaying some spectacular catches.

After the game news conference, Pryor said,” I know like the type of player I am, numbers may not have shown that in college, but just getting that opportunity now, and I made it to where I want to be, just continue to show that I can make those plays at the highest level. If they keep calling my number, I keep making plays.”

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is always looking to beef up his defensive line, so seeing another rookie have a productive night was reassuring. The third-round draft pick, defensive tackle Zach Carter, made his debut by pushing back the pocket steadily all night and knocking down a Trace McSorley pass. He ended the night with four tackles. He will surely make a nice rotational piece to this year’s defense.

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Players who did not get the job done

Last year’s most significant concern was the lack of protection on the offensive line. The Bengals addressed it by spending money in free agency picking up Alex Cappa, Ted Karras, and La’el Collins. However, who will be backing them up?

Once again, the problem reared its ugly head, exposing the offensive line’s lack of depth. It ultimately showed the coaching staff that they would need to make significant adjustments or look for other alternatives before the start of the season.

According to the Bengal’s first depth chart, the only starter was offensive linemen Jackson Carman. The goal is to get the experience from last year and see improvements this year, but that did not seem to be the case in Carman’s first preseason game. He was penalized for holding and was bull rushed serval times into the backfield. This is not something you expect from a last-year starter playing against backups. If Carman doesn’t start to show signs of improvement, then rookie Cordell Volson will be allowed to show what he can do.

It was pretty alarming to watch both experience offensive lineman Isaiah Prince and Hakeem Adeneji keep getting pushed back multiply times by the Cardinal’s backups. Prince struggled all game, slowly getting out of his stance; he seemed to get beat a lot on every play and eventually gave up a strip-sack. Adeneji was not much better. He, too, gave up a sack, then was flagged the next play. The poor performance of Prince and Adeneji kept quarterback Brandon Allen on high alert, and he ultimately had to leave the game with a concussion.

Flags were flying

The Bengals had serval offensive drives stall due to undisciplined football. The rookies and backup were responsible for 11 penalties costing them 104 yards. Defensive back Allan George was called for a pass interference penalty giving the Cardinals excellent field position. Chris Evans had an explosive run of 60-yards and was called back due to a holding penalty.

Penalties are the fastest way for a team to get behind in a game. The Bengals were among the least penalized teams last year, so I am confident this will be addressed in this week’s practice.

The coaching staff has plenty of film to review. The focus will be to build on the positive things and improve on the sub-par issues before their next preseason game against the Giants on August 21.

 

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