CANTON, Ohio — Wrapping up a pretty uneventful preseason opener for the Bengals in the Hall of Fame Game Sunday night.
1. It was bad, and Marvin Lewis wasn’t real happy afterwards. But it wasn’t going to be a work of art. Don’t judge anything by anything you see in a first preseason game, especially one played by two teams who played in the playoffs eight months ago and have an extra preseason game this go ’round. Teams don’t hit much in practice, so these games are full of fumbles and penalties. Rookies go 100 miles per hour without knowing where they’re supposed to go. Backup quarterbacks play like backup quarterbacks — and, man, did the Bengals backups play terribly. The important thing is it’s over, the Bengals are going back to work in Georgetown knowing they’d better be a little sharper next Sunday.
2. That’s the thing about these preseason games. You don’t want to show future opponents too much, and you definitely don’t want your studs to overexert themselves. At the same time, it’s been documented that teams have trouble just flipping the switch if they go through the motions early. It’s very early, too early probably, and the real evaluation of these less-than-real games can be made the next time the Bengals play a quality opponent on national television, the Eagles on Aug. 20. By then anybody going through the motions will be in real trouble with The Man In Charge. Three quick things Lewis probably wants to see going forward: Much more disciplined football on both sides, a quick-hit passing game that both moves the chains and sets up the deep stuff, and enough from the offense to at least put this kicking competition on display. One PAT late in an already-decided game isn’t going to cut it.
3. Two of Carson Palmer’s early passes went to Terrell Owens. Three, actually, but one was called back on a penalty on Chad Ochocinco. Two drives for the starting offense, nothing to show. But it’s clear that Owens still changes defenses, still comes back to the ball and has the range to catch passes lots of guys can’t and will be a factor. This is very much a work in progress with Antonio Bryant sidelined and Jermaine Gresham still looking like a rookie who missed valuable time at the start of camp. That’s what this is, just a start. A forgetful one. In the first half the Bengals had 9 penalties, 67 total yards and went 0-for-3 on third down. I’d rather watch the Ochocinco Dating Show, but I’ll be back. And they’ll be better. Eventually.
5. Here’s what was good for the Bengals Sunday night: Adam Jones played a semi-real football game, about 10 other guys got to play against good competition because a bunch of other Bengals (Johnathan Joseph, Bryant, Rey Maualuga and Carlos Dunlap come to mind) didn’t play, Jordan Shipley got important nerve-calming snaps early and had a big punt return late and, well, the punt team sure got a lot of work. Here’s what was bad: Discipline, quarterback play, getting Chris Crocker and Brian Leonard hurt. Crocker says his ankle is “just twisted,” but Leonard’s going to need more tests on his foot. Losing him would mean the Bengals lose a smart, experienced back who blocks and catches the ball. There’s often little to gain and much to lose in these preseason games, and the Bengals will gladly say this one is behind them.