Week 2 of the preseason brought the defending AFC champions to MetLife Stadium. The Cincinnati Bengals opted to sit their starters and majority of top contributors on both sides of the ball. For the second week in a row, NYG had a quasi-starting line up (what is left of them) against the opponent’s backups. With that said, NYG has been bit hard by the injury bug throughout training camp. Nearly half of their offensive line was out and key playmakers at receiver also haven’t been practicing. NYG also opted to keep out some of their most important players like Saquon Barkley and Leonard Williams. The blurry line between prepping for the regular season and keeping this team healthy has been tough to manage for this new regime.
NYG’s first two possessions resulted in turnovers. The first one was a 4th-and-1 stop at midfield and the second was an interception on a pass from Daniel Jones that went through the hands of rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger. That second turnover resulted in three points for CIN on a 50-yard field goal by Evan McPherson. The next possession would be NYG’s best of the night with starters on the field.
Jones threw the ball on the first nine snaps, connecting on eight of them and using five different receivers. That brought them to the 6-yard line where consecutive runs brought them across the goal, with rookie Jashaun Corbin getting the score. CIN responded with another three points on a 44-yard field goal after a long kickoff return and quickly got the ball back via a fumble by C.J. Board on the ensuing kickoff. The defense held up again, keeping CIN to another field goal. Their first four possessions started at the CIN 48, NYG 49, NYG 24, NYG 15. All things considered, the fact CIN only had 9 points on the board at this point was a big win for Wink Martindale’s defense.
The NYG backups made their way onto the field and the score remained locked in at 9-7 (CIN up) for the rest of the half. #5 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Kayvon Thibodeaux, was taken off the field in the second quarter on what initially appeared to be a bad knee injury. While it looks like they avoided a serious one, it was a quick reminder how sensitive this roster is at the moment. They can’t afford more bodies dropping before a meaningful snap is played.
The second half opened with a touchdown-scoring drive by CIN. A one-yard score by running back Trayveon Williams was put on the board as Davis Webb marched onto the field for the rest of the night. Will Holden was put in at center, a position he had never played, and his poor snaps threw off the timing and fluidity of the offense on Webb’s first drive. They punted after an ugly series of plays.
On their next possession, punter Jamie Gillan was forced to come on the field for a field goal attempt as Graham Gano was ruled out with a concussion. With safety Julian Love playing the role as holder, Gillan put it through the uprights for three points. They shortened CIN’s lead to 16-10. After another stop by the defense, NYG’s first possession of the fourth quarter resulted in a touchdown by Davis Webb. It was a short pass to Alex Bachman, a roster hopeful, that he turned into a 22-yard touchdown. A successful 2-point conversion resulted in a 18-16 lead for NYG.
CIN then put together a successful drive of their own, 83 yards on 12 plays, that resulted in a touchdown. Jacques Patrick crossed the goal line on a 3-yard run and CIN was up 22-18 with just 3:05 left.
Webb marched back onto the field and went a perfect 6/6 in hurry-up fashion, using four different targets to move the ball. Bachman took over once again. A 15-yard touchdown put NYG up 25-22 with Gillan hitting an extra point to cap it off. CIN was left with just :35 and while they did cross midfield with a big-time kicker waiting on the sideline, Tomon Fox delivered the hit of the night and it forced a fumble. Newly-signed Olaijah Griffin hopped on the loose ball and the game was over.
NYG wins, 25-22.
Daniel Jones: 14/16 – 116 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 1 att – 5 yards
A very encouraging performance for Jones. Of the practices I have been to and the two preseason games we have under our belt, this was the best I have seen of him. Take the stats out of it and do not consider the fact he has only played against backups (he does not control that, and he wasn’t exactly playing with a first-string offense to say the least), Jones played the position great. He was on time, he played with great tempo, and he was accurate to all levels of the route tree with good touch.
Davis Webb: 22/27 – 204 yards / 2 TD – 0 INT / 2 att – 1 yard
Lost in the positive Jones performance was the fact that Webb completely took this game over in the second half. After a shaky start because of poor snaps from a center who has never played center, Webb created a lot of plays on his own when needed but also stayed within the system very well. I will expand more on this below in my final NYG thoughts, but both quarterbacks played efficient football and took what the defense gave. It is one of the simpler common grounds to the best offensive systems in the NFL.
-Antonio Williams played throughout the game. He started and also played with the third string as Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, and Gary Brightwell did not play. He totaled 26 yards on 5 carries in addition to catching all 7 of his targets for 46 yards. He has had a very productive start to preseason action.
-Jashaun Corbin led the team with 9 carries, totaling 27 yards and scored a touchdown. He also caught all his targets (4) for another 15 yards. While I think he will be the odd man out when rosters get cut down, he has cemented a spot on the practice squad.
-Alex Bachman: 11 rec / 122 yards / 2 TD
I can’t remember the last time we saw a stat line out of a receiver in a preseason game from a guy who played under 50% of the snaps. How this team handles cuts at receiver will be one of the more interesting spots to watch and Bachman, who I had not projected to make the 53, did what he could to at least make the decision makers take another look at the third-year pro from Wake Forest. He is a hungry guy who plays hard and fast at all times. While he won’t make a difference with speed and explosion, there is something to be said for guys who play as hard as he does. He also made a big hit on special teams, another feather in his cap that coaches do care about.
-David Sills: 5 rec / 56 yards
If it weren’t for Bachman’s performance, Sills would have been the standout of the group. He played with the ones and produced well on just 37% of the game’s snaps. He made multiple tough catches where he had to adjust to the ball with a defender right on him. The latter part of that will be the one thing potentially between him and a roster spot. He rarely separates on his own, but he does well in these contested situations. It will be an uphill fight to end up on the 53, but his ball skills and rapport with Jones certainly helps.
-Collin Johnson hauled in a 23-yard gain from Jones, NYG’s biggest gain of the day. The deep crossing route has been a staple of the offense every time I’ve seen them in person and Johnson is clearly the one who has had the most success running it.
-Wan’Dale Robinson had 3 catches for a total of -3 yards. One resulted in a 1-yard gain; the others were both losses. He hasn’t hit the ground running yet as what I perceive to be the gimmick part of the offense. Again, not an insult to him at all. The size will limit his impact in some areas, but the movement traits and versatile background will give this offense options. But we haven’t seen it quite yet in game-action. Still seems a little unnatural to this point, which is understandable.
-Daniel Bellinger caught 2-of-3 targets for 10 yards. The one he did not come down with, however, was a ball that went through his hands and ended up as an interception for CIN first rounder Dax Hill. These are the passes he will need to catch and there is nothing more to say about it. Bellinger has the incredible opportunity to start Week 1 as a 4th rounder at tight end (by default, really) and these are the kind of plays that will land him on the bench if they are repeated a few more times.
-Chris Myarick and Austin Allen both caught 1 pass for 4 yards. Myarick made an impact as a blocker on two big plays. One a touchdown and the other a short 3rd-down conversion.
-The starting group was without their LG and OC. The three guys who did play, Andrew Thomas, Mark Glowinski, and Evan Neal continued the trend they’ve been on since the start of camp. Thomas looks nearly unbeatable, stemming from quick and powerful initial steps/contact, in addition to his fast adjustments. Glowinski never completely looks the part, but he constantly gets the job done. Neal had some ugly plays, some dominant plays. His set up and trust in himself looked better in traditional one-on-one matchups. He needs to play to his strengths, and that is size, power, stability. He is adjusting, sometimes when not necessary, and continues to lose his balance. The footwork and ability to stay square/upright need work. I think we are going to see him get beat to his inside shoulder often this season. As a run blocker, he has the goods already.
-Devery Hamilton played left guard and left tackle, both at a high level with above average success rate. He seems to be one of the biggest winners of preseason/camp. He played his way into the 6th-lineman role, maybe 7th if everyone comes back healthy. He has credible ability at both spots. He simply does not lose often.
-Max Garcia played over half the snaps (OG and OC). He allowed 2 pressures and looked stiff in the running game. He lacks knee bend, and it labors his movement when he needs to adjust laterally. He has been very unimpressive. But his experience at OC and the fact NYG has multiple injuries there right now, he probably makes the team. Nevertheless, I’m not confident he will be here all season.
-Will Holden, one of my camp favorites among backups, had a rough game. He played second string LG and third string OC. He allowed 2 pressures. In his defense, this was the first time he ever played OC in a game. His shotgun snaps early on were horrible and it threw off the timing of their quick passing game. He did get it together in the fourth quarter, though. If you’re asking me, I take him over Garcia even though experience does mean something with this coaching staff.
-One of the low-key top performances came from Roy Mbaeteka. He has come a long way in a short time. The post-snap bend and set up have improved a lot and he appeared to use his elite-length as a true weapon. Interesting project to keep an eye on.
-Kayvon Thibodeaux had his night end early after a rough looking cut block at his knee which was firmly planted into the ground. I’ll touch on this below, but it was not a dirty hit. Before the play, he finished with 1 pressure and got locked up by the backup CIN tackles elsewhere. He has not shown much in the limited action we have seen in two games.
-Good to see Azeez Ojulari on the field, albeit only for 7 plays. Oshane Ximines, a sneaky candidate for a surprise cut when they go down to 53, had a pressure but lost on the edge in run defense multiple times. This has been an issue for him his entire career and this is a major no-no in the Martindale scheme.
-On the flip side, Quincy Roche was the star of the night defensively. While he lacks the ideal size Martindale wants there, the flexibility of the scheme and Roche’s play strength appear to be a good fit. He finished with 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. He also looks to be a leader of the front, making calls and getting teammates in position.
-Don’t sleep on Tomon Fox, either. He plays a very powerful game and got some extra playing time last night. He finished with a tackle, forced fumble, and 2 pressures. His hit at the end of the game was an energy stick for what Martindale wants out of his front.
-Leonard Williams stayed off the field in this one, but we did see some Dexter Lawrence. He played next to Nick Williams and Justin Ellis, quite the load. Jalyn Holmes got playing time with the ones as well. This should give us a decent idea who is being viewed as the contributing portion of this group. Not much to report here, but there is a chance one of Williams/Ellis will not stick long term if rookie D.J. Davidson is healthy.
-Speaking of Davidson, he limped off the field in the fourth quarter. He is one guy I hope can get on the field early, as I think he can be an important piece moving forward. Playing time now will make this defense better next year and beyond. The run stuffer ended with 2 pressures. He is more than just a big body who can eat up double teams.
-Ryder Anderson saw a lot of time. He finished with 2 tackles and a TFL along with 1 pressure. There is still some work to be done on his ability to stay home against the run without getting turned around. But there is such a unique skill set here. I still think he makes this team, but it may have to be at the expense of someone else. I don’t see him making it through waivers if they try to stash him on the PS.
-Micah McFadden led the team with 5 tackles. He continued to get from his starting position to the ball carrier efficiently and finishing upon arrival. He has been a low-key stud among backups, and I expect to see him move up a spot as Darian Beavers appears to have injured his knee. Unfortunate for the rookie as he has been impressive in camp so far and has the skill set to thrive in this scheme.
-Tae Crowder put his speed on full display throughout his time on the field. He added 4 tackles and 1 TFL. His range against passes to the flat was on display over and over and he sealed the deal in open field. He has his warts, but he adds an element of speed and physicality to the front seven. While I think the long-term future of this position will not include him, Crowder does bring positives to the attacking nature of this defense.
-Veteran Adoree’ Jackson is a solid cover man, but one difference I see right now compared to his time in Tennessee and his college tape at USC is the willingness to come downhill on ball carriers. He has been aggressive on all fronts and, combined with his easy speed and acceleration, he appears to be in line for the best season of his career. Sometimes all it takes is a new scheme.
-We may be watching a competition between Zyon Gilbert and Darren Evans for the final cornerback spot unless one of the injured guys in front of them starts off on IR. Evans was thrown at a ton with mixed results. He had 4 tackles and a pass break up and was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty. Gilbert showed better in coverage, albeit wasn’t thrown at nearly as much. Evans’ tools are attractive, and I think coaches will lean toward him if they had to choose. He is getting slightly better at locating the football, but still has a little ways to go there.
-Aaron Robinson got away with a pass interference in the end zone. I like the movement he is showing but I am concerned by how grabby he is getting. Coaches have often told me that these young corners need to learn how to cover with their feet and body positioning, not their hands. Robinson is still behind there, and I do think when his back gets turned to the quarterback he loses some of his body control. Something to keep an eye on.
-Khalil Dorsey finished with a sack as he continues to make his case for the backup nickel job. I’m not sure I see the spot unless they go with just 3 safeties, but he has done everything right performance wise.
-Xavier McKinney and Julian Love were on the field for just a couple series. The depth behind them is still scary-thin until Dane Belton can come back and even then, it is limited group early on.
-Andrew Adams, Yusuf Corker, and Trenton Thompson saw plenty of time and were active against the run. It is a trio of aggressive players who tackle well in space. My unknown with them, Thomson and Corker especially, is the impact they can make in deep coverage. Thompson shows better movement, Corker shows a quicker mind. I still think there is a strong possibility that only Adams makes it to the 53.
-K Graham Gano: left game with concussion
-P Jamie Gillan: 3 punts / 36.0 avg / 36.0 net & filled in at kicker, hitting a 31-yard FG and one extra point
-WR Alex Bachman, QB Daniel Jones, OL Devery Hamilton
-TE Daniel Bellinger, OG Max Garcia, WR C.J. Board
3 THOUGHTS ON CIN
1. The defending AFC champions caught the league by surprise and had an Eli Manning-led, Giants-type run to the Super Bowl. Maybe not the best team all year, but the team that got hot at the right time and a clutch quarterback who brought his entire team to another level. The additions they made on the offensive line (FA and draft) and one of the most underrated defenses in the league will steady this ship and keep them very much in the picture. I am projecting CIN to make the Super Bowl again (a rarity for Super Bowl losers the next season) because of how much I believe in the presence of Burrow and arguably the most balanced roster in the league.
2. Kicker Even McPherson is a name you should remember. If you don’t know much about him yet, I believe he is the next Justin Tucker-caliber point scorer in the league. He missed a field goal Week 13 against SF in a 3-point loss. From there? A perfect 21/21 through the Super Bowl, including 3 game winners (2 in postseason). Another reason I’m on CIN this year.
3. CIN has the most ideal salary cap situation in the league when looking at the next 2-3 years. A star quarterback and maybe even a bigger star at WR both on rookie deals taking up a tiny part of the cap for at least another two seasons, most likely three and could even be four. This is a franchise that will need to be a little more aggressive than what they’ve been in recent contention years. Where could they upgrade the most? An interior pass rusher and a true number one corner would be on my scope. They might need to hit up the trade market and then pay up after (think what LAR did to get Jalen Ramsey).
3 NOTES ON NYG
1. I have seen a lot of football practices over the years. The block that CIN tight end Moss put on Thibodeaux that ended up spraining his MCL is practiced in nearly every single one of them. Football is a violent game filled with the most powerful athletes in the world. While I hate to see things like this happen in preseason action, it is a part of the game. Moss did nothing wrong and if you watch enough film with attention to these blocks, you will see them in almost every game.
2. When it comes to getting the ball out in a hurry, both Jones and Webb excelled in this game compared to what I have seen at camp. This is reason #150 why strong reactions to camp should be ignored, plain and simple. Games like this give us a better idea where the players are at when it comes to the comfort within the system that is being implemented. These short, fast throws are a proven way to produce consistent positive gains to keep the offense moving upfield. Once that becomes clock work, everything else opens up. The foundation is being set by Brian Daboll and I am happy to report the initial feel on TV was strengthened upon further review of the All-22.
3. I will be at the joint practice Thursday with the Jets. I plan to watch this defensive backfield closely. There are a lot of bodies who I grade in a very similar tier, but the numbers game is going to pick off a few of them. Even the newly-signed Olaijah Griffin flashed in limited time from a tool set perspective. I have to think what Martindale wants (physical guys who can survive on an island downfield) will win out, but we will know in a couple weeks for sure.
Personally, I love the move from 4 preseason games to 3. Whether you’re a team that sits starters or plays them, with the injury rate what it is in today’s NFL, 3 is enough. I could even see them moving to 2 at some point in the near future. I hate to see players injured, notably anyone from the nucleus of a team, but there is a ton of value to get some live action under their belts before Week 1. Now, NYG has one more game and a joint practice before they move onto TEN with some extra time in between. The injuries have piled up but it appears most will be back between now and then.