Ten facts, opinions, observations and areas of concern for the Bengals coming out of their nationally-televised preseason win over the Falcons Thursday night.
1. Andy Dalton firing deep. A.J. Green catching it. It’s Marvin Lewis’s job to sweat the details, the injuries, the special teams and the assignments, but it’s Dalton-to-Green on the kind of double move that led to the 50-yard touchdown that makes this team unique and gives this team a chance to reach its goals this year.
2. It’s the preseason, so it matters little beyond staying healthy. But the starters looked like they belonged against a really good team, the secondary held its own against a really good passing game and the Bengals kept their key offensive guys upright and moved the ball despite an early turnover and some previous missed opportunities.
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3. Dalton missed Green in the end zone in the first quarter. He rushed some other throws, too. But he finished 8-of-14 for 125 yards and threw a dart for the touchdown. Dalton is aware of what leaked earlier this summer about someone inside the organization having concerns about his arm strength, and he seems on a mission to prove that wrong. “You can tell everybody that it’s not even close to what I’ve got if I need it,” he said after the touchdown.
4. Dalton ran for his life a couple times. The offensive line had to reset after losing Travelle Wharton for the season, and it’s going to be a work in progress. The Bengals played without their top two running backs due to injury. That’s life in the preseason. After losing four starters early in the preseason opener, a big goal was just getting out of this one intact.
5. Jermaine Gresham looked fine later in the game after a knee injury ended his night early, and Lewis said he thinks Gresham will be fine. The Bengals need him to be. His first quarter catch-and-run showed what he’ll be able to do this year as safeties slide towards Green and Gresham uses his gifts to find openings in the middle of the defense. He had 56 catches last year and should surpass that this year.
6. The defensive line looked really good, especially since it was playing without Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers. If the Bengals can create pressure on quarterbacks with their front four, the patchwork secondary will benefit greatly.
7. The secondary probably remains the No. 1 concern, though it’s good to see the veteran corners staying healthy. Dre Kirkpatrick will be back eventually; the sooner the better for both him and the team. Jeromy Miles is going to win a job at safety and maybe even a starting job. The Bengals know they won’t win a regular season game without their top two running backs, and they’d like to see more out of their receivers — specifically Armon Binns and Brandon Tate. All things considered, would Lewis say he likes — or at least sort of likes — where his team is on Aug. 17? Probably yes. The real stuff doesn’t start for a while. 8. The special teams have been solid. They should be — that’s where guys win jobs — at this stage, even if things are a little sloppy, but the Bengals need to continue to develop a core of players who can help them with the little things like field position, avoiding penalties, swinging momentum, etc. Dan Skuta, by any measure, is a football player. He’s always around the ball.
9. Andrew Hawkins is going to make the team. The little guy is making plays as a kick cover man, will continue to state his case as a kick return man and can have a niche role in the offense that forces the defense to adjust when he’s in the game. He’s not going to catch 50 passes but he’s playing like he can help the Bengals win when the games start to count.
10. Marvin Jones has athleticism to spare. It will be fun to watch where his career might go from here. And that touchdown catch should be great for Mohamed Sanu’s confidence. Both rookie receivers will be on the roster, but neither is going to be guaranteed anything. Both need solid performances in these next two weeks.