Two teams harboring ambitions to be back in Glendale on February 1st, 2015 squared off last night in a relatively scrappy affair that didn’t show either starting offense in its best light.
The Arizona Cardinals, the latest team hoping to become the first host participants in Super Bowl history, failed to repeat the smooth drives that have been a feature of their first-team offense thus far in preseason. Carson Palmer was ineffective down the field and another re-jig on the offensive line still doesn’t look like an answer to the many questions up front.
For the Bengals, Andy Dalton was his inconsistent self under center with some strong throws paired with poor decisions that went unpunished to leave his stat line little the worse for wear. On defense there were fleeting glimpses from some key players, but it will be lack of snaps for two key front seven players that may raise the greatest concern.
Cincinnati Bengals – Performances of Note
Wallace Gilberry, DE, +1.7
Breakdown: Still keeping Margus Hunt out of the starting lineup at defensive end, Gilberry had his most productive game of the preseason registering three pressures (one hit, two hurries) and disrupting Jared Veldheer once more early on in the game. All three of Gilberry’s pressures came in a three-minute spell at the end of the first quarter against three different offensive linemen.
Signature Play: The last of those pressures (Q1 00:43) saw the Bengals off the field on third down as Gilberry drove through a hold by Veldheer to grab Carson Palmer’s jersey as he threw to force an errant pass.
Russell Bodine, C, -1.5
Breakdown: In his third preseason start, Bodine again struggled as a run blocker in spite of keeping a clean sheet in pass protection for the third straight game. The Bengals’ fourth-round pick only saw Dan Williams for 15 snaps but the Cardinals’ big NT did good work against him including registering two defensive stops.
Signature Play: Surrendered a tackle for no gain to Williams with 6:58 remaining in the first half as he slid off Bodine’s left shoulder to smother Giovanni Bernard at the line of scrimmage.
Margus Hunt, DE, -2.2
Breakdown: A productive night for the man keeping Hunt out of the starting lineup was paired with Hunt’s most ineffective performance of the preseason. After notching seven pressures (1 Sk, 6 Hu) in the opening three games, Hunt was blanked as a pass rusher but registered a tackle for loss later in the third quarter in the run game.
Signature Stat: Despite the quiet night Hunt still sits as our fourth-highest-graded DRE in preseason with a +5.6 overall grade on 88 snaps.
Arizona Cardinals – Performances of Note
Deone Bucannon, S, +4.0
Breakdown: The Cardinals’ first-round pick saw his most extended action of the preseason and responded with an impact performance working close to the line of scrimmage. Registering a hit and five defensive stops, one for a loss, Bucannon enters the final week with the most stops of any safety in the league.
Signature Stat: Played 25 of his 45 snaps at strong safety, lined up within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Carson Palmer, QB, -1.1
Breakdown: After leading some smooth touchdown drives in the first two preseason games, Palmer hit the skids a little this week. Completing less than 50% of his passes he had difficulty with overthrows and connected on just one of 10 passes aimed 10 or more yards downfield.
Signature Play: Pressured on eight of his 19 drop-backs last night Palmer completed just one pass when the Bengals got to him for a solitary yard and a -1.8 passing grade.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, +1.8
Breakdown: While the two Browns (Jaron and John) have shown the depth in the Cardinals’ receiving corps throughout pre-season, Larry Fitzgerald reminded us that he’s still the top dog. His three catches last night were his most this preseason and all went for first downs. Through three games Fitzgerald has played 50 snaps and caught seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown with, as ever, no drops.
Signature Play: Taking a short slant on a 3rd-and-7 (Q1 05:21) Fitzgerald created his own space after the catch stiff arming Terrence Newman aside for a 43-yard gain to set the Cardinals up in scoring range.
PFF Game Ball
A persistent presence buzzing around the line of scrimmage, Deone Bucannon made the sort of impact that can easily be forged into a specialized role and draw immediate dividends on his first round selection.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben