The Bengals are deep at wide receiver and running back. In fact they are so deep that the problem isn’t just getting talented players enough touches, it is figuring out which ones will make the cut. At running back two things are clear Joe Mixon is exceptionally talented and in spite of this Jeremy Hill isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Hill played well but didn’t seem to be playing as physically as he is capable of playing. Mixon was elusive and explosive. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hill remained the starter as the regular season began, but Mixon still manages to take the bulk load of the carries. If Hill can return to his prior form, the Bengals will have maybe the best one-two punch in the league and certainly the best one-two-three when you add Giovani Bernard back into the mix. As the game went on Tra Carson looked good at running back, but can he make the team at a position with so much depth. Deep down the depth chart at wide receiver, we also saw impressive performances from Cody Core and Alex Erickson. These three players could be in for impressive seasons, but they could be with a different team.
While all three quarterbacks played well for the Bengals, it is important to look at this with perspective. Yes, Jeff Driskel looked pretty good, but it was the second half of a preseason game. Driskel may be a serviceable backup, but if Andy Dalton was not able to play McCarron is still a much better option.
The offensive line is of course the biggest question mark for the Bengals this season. On the interior Trey Hopkins looked pretty good in his first start having served mostly on the practice squad in the past. Second year guard Alex Redmond looked impressive later in the game against lesser competition. The biggest concern for the Bengals is at the tackle position where Jake Fisher performed pretty well and Cedric Ogbuehi struggled. The Bengals did not run very many deep pass routes requiring the tackles to protect the quarterback for a long time, but both tackles didn’t pass set as deep as they should have at times. Ogbuehi also struggled to post step and adjust to inside moves. Fisher looked very good in the run game, but Ogbeuhi struggled in this area frequently allowing his opponent to disengage from his blocks too soon. Overall the tackle position remains a major concern.
Consistency at kicker was a major issue for the Bengals last season, but in their first preseason performance, both veteran Randy Bullock and rookie Jake Elliott looked good making all of their kicks. Recent addition Will Monday looked impressive at punter with punts of 50 and 54 yards including one booted from the back of the end zone.
William Jackson III looked solid at corner. He is a smooth runner and maintained good position on receivers in man-to-man. There was a perfect parallel between Jackson and Darqueze Dennard during the game. Both defended receivers on straight vertical routes, but Jackson was in correct position and able to disrupt the pass while Dennard was not. Clayton Fejedelem also looked impressive filling in for George Iloka. He was sound in coverage and strong against the run. Second year linebacker Nick Vigil had a strong performance as did newcomer Kevin Minter. The Bengals play a fair amount of loose coverage and will need to break on underneath passes more quickly to avoid opponents gaining extra yards after the catch.
The Bengals also showed potential to make vast improvements to their pass rush. Rookies Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson and newcomer Chris Smith all showed an impressive burst off of the edge. While Smith did show an impressive push-pull move in the finals minutes of the first half, all three will need to build up their pass rush move repertoire. On the interior of the defensive line Brandon Thompson looked particularly impressive, frequently penetrating the offense’s backfield.
All in all the Bengals had a strong showing. They looked exceptional running the ball and were impressive on defense. Left tackle is the biggest question mark for this team moving forward. Ogbuehi continues to struggle and there doesn’t seem to be a better option on the roster.
Breaking Down the Bengals’ Preseason Performance vs. the Buccaneers