Aug 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) talks to fans after the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 41-39. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Observations from the Bengals' First Preseason Game

The Bengals may have lost to the Chiefs in their first action of the season last night, but it wasn’t all a loss either. There were some great showings in all three phases of the game, while a few players struggled at moments. Here’s some quick observations and things to watch going forward:

 

The Offense looked Solid

Naturally this is highlighted by Dalton 53-yard completion to Green. It’s great to see Dalton start strong and complete a long ball, but this was hardly the only noticeable positive for the offense. Dane Sanzenbacher made some nice catches including his 26-yard TD. Ever the team player, he hardly gave himself credit on the play:

“It was a better job of Jason staying alive to make that throw,” he said. “When I looked back, all I could see was him running for his life. He made the play, I just had to get in the end zone.”

James Wright was able to haul in a TD of his own as he battles for a spot on this team. The running game looked just as impressive. Rookie Jeremy Hill was able to move the chains and gain 36 yards on just 6 carries while both Rex Butkhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis chipped in well.

Although the offensive line was manned primarily by backups last night, they still allowed the running game to be effective. They did allow pressure in the passing game, but overall it wasn’t a bad showing considering they faced the Chiefs highly potent pass-rush.

 
The Defensive Line

Robert Geathers had an impressive game. He played all over the line and looked sharp throughout. Looking rejuvenated from last year’s substantial amount of rest (due to his triceps injury), Geathers was able to produce a strip sack leading to a recovery by Carlos Dunlap. Not to be outdone, Dontay Moch got into the act producing a strip sack of his own, which was recovered by David King. All in all the line looked good and produced four sacks (Hunt and Bilukidi produced 1 each). With Geno Atkins’ return, I expect this line to be as dominant as ever, which will be immensely important as the Bengals face numerous dangerous quarterbacks this year.

 
An Up and Down Night for Dre Kirkpatrick

For the first game, Kirkpatrick did well overall, while his faults should be taken as a learning experience for the future. He did return an interception for a TD, but the interception itself seemed less impressive to coach Marvin Lewis after commenting, “I could have caught it.” Kirkpatrick did acknowledge the throw as a “present,” but still took full advantage of it by putting six points on the board.

Where he needed to do better was during the punt coverage game. Kirkpatrick, playing as a gunner, did well to avoid blockers and put himself in position to make a play on De’Anthony Thomas. But Kirkpatrick, worried about being flagged for a penalty, pulled up at the last second and didn’t finish the play. This mistake was exasperated when Thomas returned the punt for an 80-yard score. Kirkpatrick had this to say regarding the play:

“I was more concerned about him running into me and me getting a flag. We had a similar play in practice, but like I said, plays like that you just have to make.”

As a backup cornerback, Kirkpatrick will need to be effective on special teams if he wants to see the field more. This will need to be a learning moment for Kirkpatrick.

 

The Returners

Dane Sanzenbacher was the star of the game and solidified this with kick returns of 24, 30, and 34 yards (which was for 52 yards, but was called back due to a holding penalty), good for a 29.3 yard average. Brandon Tate did have one return for 25 yards, which isn’t bad either. But these kind of returns by Sanzenbacher can leave Tate’s job in jeopardy, which would be good news for the “roster bubble” guys if the Bengals chose to move on from Tate.

Sanzenbacher was probably a lock to make this team already, but with returns like these, fans should be seeing more of the unheralded receiver going into 2014.

 

Jason Campbell

Going into this game Jason Campbell seemed to have a lock on the backup quarterback job given rookie A.J. McCarron’s struggle to get on the field due to “elbow soreness.” But Campbell had a forgettable evening after producing only six completions on 15 attempts. He threw for two TDs, but also had two interceptions. Then in the third quarter, Campbell was pulled from the game due to an elbow injury. Sideline media reported that it “might be a bigger injury than originally thought.” This would be bad news for the quarterback position in 2014. The Bengals went into this off-season hoping to develop some depth at the position, so if Campbell is out for any substantial amount of time, coupled with McCarron’s injury, the Bengals may be thin at the position once more.

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