Leading the Bengals’ offense down the field in the final minutes, down six points, quarterback Jeff Driskel looked impressive on a sequence of read-option plays. He made gains of 14, 10 and 9 yards, as well as a 30-yard toss to an open Kermit Whitfield on a crossing pattern.
Eventually, however, Washington decided to send heat. Driskel was stuffed behind the line by a blitzing Will Blackmon, then made a poor throw to a corner of the end zone to end the game, a 17-23 loss.
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Fortunately for Cincinnati, that sequence didn’t matter. The team’s starting lineup was done for the day by halftime, after putting on a far more dominant performance than the 14-13 score they posted would suggest. In the long-term, Sunday’s performance can be marked as a victory for the Bengals faithful.
Quick takeaways from Sunday’s action:
1.) Washington and Cincinnati run similar offenses. Redskins coach Jay Gruden was formerly the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, and Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton are similar quarterbacks – young, functionally mobile, but mid-tier arm talents and distributors more than playmakers. The fact that both teams were running the same concepts, side-by-side, made the Bengals’ higher level of execution that much more obvious.
Dalton finished the game without taking a sack, handling the pressure he received well and moving the offense effectively. Cousins looked exasperated talking to Gruden on the sideline after just the second drive. When the Bengals put their second-team offense on the field in the second half, Cousins was still playing. In the preseason, that’s one way to measure an actual win.
2.) Wide receiver A.J. Green found the ball a number of times in the first quarter: twice on short crossing routes past the sticks (consecutively, first one called back by penalty), again on a slant from the left, and a few plays later on a post route that set up an easy goal-line touchdown for Jeremy Hill.
As for the rest of the group, Tyler Boyd caught a slant one play before Green did, while Brandon LaFell opened the second quarter with one of his own. First-round pick John Ross, for his part, was given the ball on an end-around type play and took it eight yards for a first down.
Dalton wasn’t asked to push the ball downfield very often – part of that naturally comes from the offense he’ll be asked to run this year, with the questions around the offensive line, but the absence of tight end Tyler Eifert likely played a part. Tyler Kroft, his fill-in, didn’t hear his name called aside from after a couple of penalties.
3.) The defensive front looked spectacular, especially rushing Cousins on later downs. Each of Washington’s three drives in the first quarter ended in three plays – two with sacks on third down, one with an intentional grounding call.
The first sack was given to defensive end Chris Smith, although that was more a product of a six-man blitz that overwhelmed left guard Shawn Lauvao. On the grounding call, Michael Johnson beat his man from a three-technique alignment, running around and nearly taking Cousins down from behind. The last sack was a result of Carl Lawson turning the corner around Trent Williams, a pure one-on-one victory against one of the best left tackles in the league.
Against the run, the Bengals did as well as could be expected. Washington played a combination of Robert Kelley and Samaje Perrine in the first half – power complemented by more power – with a handful of touches for third-down back Chris Thompson mixed in. Kelley earned his share of yards up the middle, some after contact, but he didn’t accomplish anything outside or catching in the flats. Perrine finished with five yards on as many carries, and no receiving stats.
4.) Regarding the Bengals’ backfield, none of the Bengals’ ball carriers made a convincing case to be the full-time starter. Jeremy Hill did what should be expected of him, taking a handoff at the goal line for a score and earning yards between the tackles, but Joe Mixon was able to run outside when Hill couldn’t. Of course, Mixon failed to look in a handoff on the team’s second drive, leading to a turnover. He won’t win the job by making mistakes like that.
5.) Near the end of the third quarter, the protection scheme on a Bengals’ punt broke down, and a free rusher from the right was in Kevin Huber’s face when he was about to drop the ball. He did an impressive job pulling the ball away, which is all he could’ve been asked to do in his situation. Even if he couldn’t make a play, he was able to make the highlight reel – a incredible accomplishment for a punter.
–Andy Hammel is the managing editor for cover32/Bengals and covers the Cincinnati Bengals for cover32