ANALYSIS: 5 things we learned from Bengals’ preseason loss to Cardinals

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals tested their depth in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, probably more than expected.

Backup quarterback Brandon Allen, who was expected to play the entire first half, went into concussion protocol after taking a foot to the helmet during a sack on the first series. Jake Browning replaced him and played the rest of the game until the final drive when Loveland product Drew Plitt enteredin a 36-23 loss at the newly-renamed Paycor Stadium.

Plitt led a 94-yard scoring drive capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to undrafted free agent Kendric Pryor, who finished with four catches for a team-high 89 yards to carry over an impressive start to training camp. The Bengals scored both of their touchdowns on the final two drives of the game but it was too late by then, as Arizona rolled to a 14-point lead in the first half while the Bengals settled for three field goals from Evan McPherson.

Here are five things the Bengals learned from the loss.

1. Offensive line concerns

Jackson Carman was the only projected starter on the Bengals’ offense to play, as he is in an ongoing battle at left guard with rookie fourth-round pick Cordell Volson. The other four positions are solidified, and Carman still has much to prove to remain in the lead for the starting job. Volson’s night was mostly positive, amplified by the lead block on the Bengals’ first touchdown, a 1-yard run by Jacques Patrick on the second to last drive.

Carman had his moments that could have been better, but so did much of the offensive line. Left guard Isaiah Prince got beat on a sack while Carman was pushed back into Allen’s face on the first series, ending Allen’s day. Hakeem Adeniji, who started at right guard but later replaced Prince at left tackle, was beat on a sack of Browning in the fourth quarter and eventually Prince came back in.

The offensive line as a whole allowed three sacks, and penalties also were an issue.

“First preseason game so there’s always gonna be stuff we’ve gotta work out, that’s why we’re out there doing it and getting better and learning,” Carman said, noting he felt his performance improved as the game went on and he got more comfortable.

2. McPherson’s still on the money

With no other kicker on the roster, McPherson was the only entrenched starter to appear for the Bengals, and he picked up right where he left off last season.

McPherson made 16 straight field goals to end the 2021 season and was 3-for-3 on Friday with one for 56 yards and another for 58. The Bengals went into halftime down 23-9, but McPherson gave the fans something to cheer about.

“It was kind of cool to see the crowd kind of get involved and it kind of brought me back to the 65-yarder at the ‘Back Together’ practice, just kind of the crowd cheering me on and giving me a little extra adrenaline to help me put that through,” McPherson said.

McPherson said preseason games for specialists are a necessary tune-up.

3. Quarterback play impresses

Allen completed all three of his passes before exiting, and Browning had a respectable night with 190 yards passing, despite some struggles with the offensive line. Then, Plitt finished with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 after he completed 6 of 6 passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Plitt doesn’t get many reps in practice and only joined the team at the start of camp, a college free agent out of Ball State University.

“It was a dream come true,”

Before the game, Joe Burrow was doing some sprints, but coach Zac Taylor said he’s been doing that for a little while now and he continues progressing every day.

However, with Burrow still out of practices and Allen still in concussion protocol, that could leave the team with just two quarterbacks for a bit. Taylor said he doesn’t see a need to bring in any other quarterbacks, though, as Allen already was feeling better after the game.

Taylor said some of the injury evaluations were more precautionary than anything.

4. Defensive standouts

It wasn’t a great day overall for the defense, but some of the players that coaches have been high on proved they could carry over performances from practice into games. Among the standouts were defensive linemen Zach Carter and Jeff Gunter and free safety Dax Hill. The Bengals were without cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, who is dealing with a core muscle issue but also would have been one to watch.

Carter finished with four tackles and no glaring errors or penalties, while Gunter had a sack, two quarterback hurries and a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage.

Hill got beat on the first touchdown for the Cardinals, but had a near interception for a pass breakup in the end zone and a big stop on third down.

5. Evans impressed despite stats

Chris Evans had two big plays squandered by holding penalties on Thaddeus Moss. He ran for 65 yards on the first play from scrimmage but only two of those yards counted. The Bengals ended up punting that drive and had to settle for a field goal on another possession when Evans scored a touchdown that was nullified by another hold.

Evans finished with minus-3 yards on eight carries and wasn’t utilized at all in the passing game, despite that being a strong suit for him.

“He did some good things,” Taylor said. “We’ll let those backs play a lot in the preseason and continue to assess them. His stats aren’t going to reflect some of the really good runs that he had, so he did some positive things for us.”


Bengals at Giants, 7 p.m., NFL Network, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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