Defense carried the day in the Bengals' Week 1 preseason win over the New York Jets.
Though the Bengals ultimately suffered a number of injuries, there was far more good than bad on display. Here are the three biggest takeaways from last week's game and what it may mean for their Aug. 16 outing against the Atlanta Falcons.
Defense on Display
The Cincinnati Bengals had one of the more underrated defenses of the 2011 season, but this year, they're working hard to make sure everyone takes greater notice.
The Bengals gave up just 173 total yards—and just 57 via the pass, though much of that also rested on the dismal aerial performances of starter Mark Sanchez and backup Tim Tebow. Tebow also was the Jets' best rusher, carrying the ball four times for 34 yards.
Cincinnati allowed no touchdowns, gave up just 10 combined rushing and passing first downs, forced one fumble and picked off one pass—Tebow's last, which was pulled down by linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
The Bengals defensive line, linebackers and secondary were pretty much all on point in the first game, which bodes well for that entire side of the ball having continued success in the 2012 season.
Five sacks, seven quarterback hits and 10 defenders with three or more total tackles in a game where nearly everyone had an opportunity to take the field proves that Cincinnati has struck gold when it comes to its defensive depth chart.
Mohamed Sanu, Where Are You?
Rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu made headlines last week, as he played the role of Jets quarterback Tim Tebow in the Bengals' preparations for the first preseason game. But that was all we heard of him when it came to this game—he had not one pass thrown his way.
Twelve different Bengals were targeted for passes, but none of them was Sanu.
Sanu was thought to be in the mix for the team's No. 2 receiver job, however it seems like maybe that isn't necessarily the case. The other two players in the competition—Brandon Tate and Armon Binns—were targeted five and two times, respectively, both pulling down two passes for 24 yards. Marvin Jones was the Bengals' standout receiver, with two receptions for 48 yards.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley says Sanu is the future at the position, and though I am prone to believe it (he was a third-round draft pick after all), it is quite telling that he didn't get any play in the first preseason contest.
If this trend continues Aug. 16 against the Falcons, then it's almost certain that Sanu is out of this race for now.
Cedric Peerman Makes a Strong Case
There are three Bengals running backs guaranteed roster spots this year: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard. Vying for the fourth spot is veteran Cedric Peerman, a special teams standout, and rookie Dan Herron, taken in the seventh round of the draft.
Based on the first preseason game, it looks like Herron's the one with some catching up to do.
Herron had four carries, but just eight yards. Peerman, on the other hand, had seven carries for 30 yards, scored one rushing touchdown and another on special teams when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
Peerman was the Bengals' second-leading special teams tackler last year, and that's one area in which Herron will need to prove himself more valuable if he is to earn himself a spot on the 53-man roster. Peerman looked better carrying the ball and showcased his versatility in the first preseason game; if Herron doesn't step it up this Thursday, he's likely missed his chance.