And while most starters did not play or even dress for the game as Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor announced would be the case during the week, there were still several takeaways from the loss.
Friday’s game was the first time the Bengals’ coaching staff was able to see their players unleashed. With practices very controlled and little tackling taking place, preseason games are where the evaluation truly takes place.
NewsJackson Carman, offensive line in spotlight as Bengals lose to the Cardinals
Here’s what we learned from the Bengals’ 36-23 loss to the Cardinals:
Bengals’ starting left guard job remains undetermined as Jackson Carman has a disappointing first half
The only real position battle taking place in training camp for the Bengals in terms of a starting role is at left guard. Cincinnati filled the rest of its holes through free agency and returned most starters from last season.
After selecting Carman in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the hope and expectation were that Carman would become a consistent starter for the Bengals and he’s been anything but that. Carman showed up out of shape for training camp and after a move from left tackle where he spent his time in Clemson at to guard, he struggled and slipped down Cincinnati’s depth chart.
At one point during training camp in 2021, Carman worked with the third-team offensive line. Carman rebounded and worked his way back to the second team by the start of the season. Due to injuries, he even started six games. Five of Carman’s six starts came at right guard, but left guard is where he’s battling for a job this season. When the Bengals signed Alex Cappa on Day 1 of free agency, it signaled if Carman were to earn a starting role, it would be at left guard.
For most snaps during training camp when the Bengals’ starting offensive line has been out there, Carman has taken the snaps at left guard. On Friday against the Cardinals, Carman played the entire first half and was the only offensive starter to play.
It was a bit of a disappointing night for Carman. He was nailed for a holding call on second down that was declined and lost his share of one-on-one matchups. While it’s the first preseason game and there’s no reason to panic completely, Carman not dominating the Cardinals’ second-team defensive line is underwhelming. For an offensive lineman, it's better the less your name is mentioned. This wasn’t the case for Carman or Hakeem Adeniji, both players who started games for the Bengals in 2021 and didn’t play great in the preseason.
Carman said following the game he expected to play the entire first half. Offensive line coach Frank Pollack shared the plan with Carman and Volson.
"I thought it was good, we all have a lot to learn from that first experience, but it was good to go out there for the first time this season and be able to put the pads on,” Carman said following his performance.
Fourth-round pick Cordell Volson started the second half and depending on the coaches’ review of Carman’s performance, it wouldn’t be shocking if this is the split for each preseason game. Taylor said that position is far from solidified and it showed in the first preseason game.
"We want those guys to get as many reps as possible," Taylor said of the battle at left guard. "They’re competing for their job and the best way to compete is in the game."
First-round pick safety Dax Hill has a promising debut for the Bengals
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and Taylor said they were surprised Hill was available when they got on the clock at pick No. 31 in the NFL draft.
Why?Because they had Hill rated highly on their draft board and figured another team would select him before they would get a chance. They feel they lucked out in landing Hill, especially with Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell’s futures in Cincinnati following this season yet to be determined.
Hill started and played the first half for the Bengals and for the most part, looked the part of what the Bengals hoped he would be. He recorded two pass breakups on critical third downs and looked comfortable in his role in the middle of the field.
“He jumped out at you," Taylor said of Hill's performance. "He made two real good plays, one down there in the low red (zone) and one on the field there on third down. Those are big time plays, so that’s what stands out and then you’ll evaluate the rest of it and see how he was. But that was exciting to see from Dax.”
It’s unclear when Bates will return to the Bengals. The team anticipates him playing the season in Cincinnati but that’s still unclear now. Bates has stated his displeasure with playing the season on the franchise tag amount. With Hill playing well in his first NFL game, Anarumo and Taylor have got to feel satisfied with their safety situation if for some reason Bates does not play. Even if Bates and Bell are the Bengals’ starters come Week 1, the plan is to utilize Hill often. Anarumo is known for playing up to six defensive backs at times and it appears Hill could be a major contributor in his first season.
As for how Hill felt his rookie debut went, overall he was pleased but admitted there's room for improvement. He said getting snaps against another opponent was invaluable to him as he continues to adapt to the speed of the NFL game.
"It felt good ... I felt comfortable out there," Hill said. "The first series, all the jitters went away, so it felt like football.”
Backup quarterback Brandon Allen suffers concussion
With Joe Burrow still recovering from his appendectomy that took place the day before training camp starters, Allen immediately assumed the starting responsibilities. Allen was taken off the field and went back to the locker room in the first quarter and later the team announced he was being evaluated for a concussion. Following the game, Taylor said the initial reports are that Allen shouldn't be out for an extended period of time. This would allow the Bengals to not have to add another quarterback and keep their situation as is.
"Brandon feels pretty good right now," Taylor said. "We’ll just see where we he’s at and assess that and figure out where we need to go.”
Jake Browning stepped in and played well completing 13-of-24 passes for 190 yards. His longest pass was a 36-yard completion. The Bengals signed Drew Plitt following the news that Burrow would miss time during training camp and it's highly likely Cincinnati adds another quarterback with Allen and Burrow likely out another week. Most NFL teams dress three quarterbacks in the preseason.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Bengals lost to Cardinals in NFL preseason opener: What we learned