After more than seven months away, the Cincinnati Bengals finally returned to Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday night, treating hometown fans to some live football. A win would have been nice, but the 25-17 loss to the New York Jets still provides some insight into the 2014 Bengals.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday’s contest.
Andy Dalton is Poised for a Big Season
Starting quarterbacks typically don’t see a lot of action the second preseason game, and such was the case for Bengals’ signal-caller Andy Dalton last night. Even so, Dalton was in fine form against the Jets’ first-string defense.
In three series, Dalton went 8-for-8 with 144 yards and a touchdown (no interceptions), scoring a QB rating of 158.3. His passes were precise and strong, many of them finding spots that didn’t seem to be there.
If Dalton can perform at this level during the season, and stay healthy, he will more than justify his shiny new contract.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis Is Fading from the Bengals’ Plans
Already on shaky ground due to age, drooping performance, and a relatively hefty contract, BenJarvus Green-Ellis faced long odds of cracking a crowded backfield when camp began last month. After limited use last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Green-Ellis missed practice time this week due to illness and needed a big game in Cincy to stay in the fold.
Instead, Green-Ellis didn’t get much of a chance and made even less of it. On the night, the had three yards on one carry and can’t be feeling too secure about his Stripes.
Special Teams Was Better But Still a Concern
Against the Chiefs, the Bengals’ special teams gave up three huge returns, including an 80-yard score. They were also nothing special when returning kicks on their own.
At home last night against the Jets, the return stops were much improved. Jacoby Ford averaged 23 yards per return on three kickoffs against the Bengals, and the Jets combined for just seven yards on three punt returns.
On their own returns, the Bengals still left a lot to be desired, as they averaged 20.3 yards on three kickoff returns and just 4.2 yards on six punt returns.
Plenty of work left to do for the transition teams.
Overall, the Bengals homecoming looked like good news, at least for the start of the season. The first units were solid nearly across the board, and the Bengals look like a team that can compete hard with anyone in the NFL.
The trouble will start when Marvin Lewis’ starters come off the field, but at least that shouldn’t happen all at once as it does during the preseason. Next week, the third preseason game, against the Arizona Cardinals, should be the most realistic yet.
In the desert, we should get a pretty good preview of what the real 2014 Cincinnati Bengals will look like.