In the aftermath of an embarrassing 20-0 loss to division rival Baltimore, Bengals fans are having a hard time trying to pinpoint what exactly went right.
Now I must admit it wasn’t easy. But, thinking optimistically and moving forward, there were quite a few things that impressed me in the Bengals’ opener.
We saw the rookie fourth-rounder out of Auburn, Carl Lawson, start at the nickel defensive end spot during the first drive. In his first real game action, he graded out among the top five Bengals players according to Pro Football Focus with an 80.0 grade. We also saw Jordan Willis and preseason standout Chris Smith get some action as well.
Considering this was Vigil’s first true start in his time in the league, I think he was the best among the Bengals linebackers. In the loss, he recorded his first career interception to go along with 10 total tackles (6 solos). With the exception of a crucial missed tackle on third and short, Vigil was solid, for the most part.
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Going into this week, Bengals fans were excited to see exactly where WJ3 would line up. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther elected to start Darqueze Dennard in place of the suspended Adam Jones and chose Jackson III for the nickel corner back spot. With the exception of a phantom pass Interference call–that kept a long Baltimore drive alive–Jackson showed a lot of promise in his de facto rookie campaign.
Defensive Unit As A Whole
Without seeming as though I’m giving the defense a pass for some of the mishaps we saw yesterday, it is important to note this unit was without two of its best assets in Burfict and Jones. From the beginning, the Bengals defense played a physical brand of football.
Meanwhile, they rotated the new faces we were all hoping to see. Fatigue began to play a factor down the stretch, due to the ineptitude on offense. Additionally, a legitimate argument can be made that the defense would have only given up 13 points. That should be encouraging for the team and Bengals fans moving forward.
What was the best part of this game? The Bengals are forced to quickly move on. The Houston Texans (0-1) roll into town for Thursday Night Football. In essence, a prime time win against an always challenging opponent is just what this team needs to get the season going.