The Cincinnati Bengals kicked the preseason off right. Under the bright lights of PBS, the offense and defense proved some points.
The Cincinnati Bengals were finally back in action Friday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bengals Nation would finally get a chance to witness the team that made surprising moves to get back into the postseason. The results didn’t disappoint. After decent showings on both offense and defense, Cincinnati topped Tampa Bay 23-12. But, the technical aspects of the first units is what mattered the most.
Defensively, the Bengals were put on the spot to start the game. A 13-play drive by the Bucs ended with a field goal. Two questionable calls in the end zone gave Tampa Bay a chip-shot attempt. But, the D was able to hold the Tampa offense to three points before handing the ball to the offense.
Contrary to what many may think, the offense looked sharp. If the Bengals can manage to navigate the season with limited injuries, the possibilities are unlimited for this team. The Stripes went on a 12-play drive engineered by Andy Dalton. The Ginger looked good on the drive. At one point, Dalton was 4-for-4, until an interception at the 1-yard line ended his perfect night. He ended the drive and night with 38 yards.
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Them Trenches And Backs
Let’s get to the point. The O-line did a decent job of protecting Dalton. They also did a number on the Tampa Bay D by giving the running backs room to work. The first half was an answer to OC Ken Zampese’s prayers. Joe Mixon was able to average a sneaky 5.2 yards per carry (um. yeah). Zampese’s magic number for the season stood at 4.4 ypc.
Trey Hopkins got some snaps on offense and looked good. With the O-line still looking for an identity, Hopkins’ versatility will be a welcome problem for the Bengals.
Jeremy Hill looked good. He didn’t look spectacular, but he looked serviceable. He ended the night averaging 3.7 yards per pop. Unfortunately, that’s what had the Bengals in some unsavory positions last year. The ground game has to be consistent, in order to compensate for what could be early musical chairs for the offensive line.
Mixon came as advertised. He ended the night with six carries for 31 yards. In space, he was a mirror image of Corey Dillon and Giovani Bernard. Sidestepping and twisting away from defenders, he’ll be a load for defenders.
Earlier in the week, news of the Bengals declining a trade offer from the Jaguars for AJ McCarron surprised fans. But, after watching Jeff Driskel do his thing Friday night, Cincinnati may have the luxury of parting with McCarron. He’s not the second coming of Ken Anderson, but Driskel looked comfortable in the offense. Of course, the damage was done against young men who might not be in the league in a few weeks. But, it was still a promising showing.
I’m not easily impressed. But, when a third string quarterback (8-for-9, 97 yards, 1 TD, 148.6 RTG) looks sharper than the No. 2 (5-for-8, 49 yards, 79.7 RTG)…I take notice. Driskel looks like he’ll take a chance and run when the play breaks down. Hopefully, that aspect of his game isn’t squashed by Zampese.
Football Is Back
Overall, the Bengals looked like a team ready to make some moves in the AFC North. There’s decent depth along the defensive line and the O-line will definitely be alright.
The running back situation will be fun to watch. Mixon will be the catalyst for a battle that will eventually push the best man to the top. It’s possible for the Bengals to match that 4.4 ypc average and beyond.
Randy Bullock and Jake Elliott played dueling field goals and made them all. Bullock connected on a 54-yarder and a shorter one of 49-yards. Elliott was able to make his attempt of 45-yards.
All things considered, the debut was a success, after an offseason of questions.