The Cincinnati Bengals opened their preseason schedule on Thursday night with a bang — and also with a fizzle. Cincinnati’s 41-39 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead was an up-and-down affair, with plenty of highlights and lowlights. While the first preseason game is admittedly a time for coaches to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks, we can still take some cues from last night’s contest.
Here, then, are three takeaways from the Bengals’ exhibition opener that could help shape their season.
Andy Dalton Needs to Stay Healthy
Starting QB Andy Dalton was only under center for one series but looked to be in midseason form in hitting A.J. Green for a 53-yard connection and leading the Bengals to an opening field goal. It was a completely different story when backup Jason Campbell saddled up, however.
Even though Campbell completed two TD passes, he also threw two pick-sixes and ended the night just 6-for-15 before getting banged up in the third quarter. It looks like Campbell has offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s support as the backup, but it could be a long year if Dalton becomes unavailable at any point.
The Bengals’ Special Teams Units Aren’t Very Special
When the ball was kicked in the air last night, the Bengals were generally in trouble. They gave up an 80-yard score on a punt return by De’Anthony Thomas and kick returns of 65 and 35 yards. On the receiving end, Dane Sanzenbacher did manage a 34-yard kick return, but should have taken an end zone knee at least once rather than running it out.
Jasper Collins returned one punt for four yards.
Suffice it to say that ST coach Darrin Simmons has his work cut out for him in 2014.
The Bengals’ Defense Could be Monstrous
Despite the final score, Cincinnati’s defense played very well, and a couple of guys stood out in particular. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick intercepted a Chase Daniel pass in the second quarter and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown, staking an early claim on the Bengals fairly open secondary.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict, taking a page from the Andy Dalton Book of NFL Preparation, appeared to be playing at full tilt already and picked up a sack for his efforts.
On the night, the Bengals’ D sacked Chiefs passers six times, forced and recovered two fumbles, and generally looked like a force to be reckoned with. When these guys are all healthy (Geno Atkins), this might be a truly scary unit.
Thursday was like meet-the-teacher night for the Bengals and their fans. Though we got to see most of the players who will help the team sink or swim in 2014, we don’t really know much about them yet beyond past performance. One thing we know for sure is that roles and perceptions will change between now and the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens on September 7.