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I neither attended or watched in real time the first Bengals preseason game. It's not that I wasn't interested - I'm actually more intrigued about this team's August games than usual because of all the young players and moving parts - it's just that a better option arose when the 1992 UC Bearcat basketball team decided to stage a reunion on the same night.
You won't be surprised to learn that I chose meeting Nick Van Exel over watching Jeff Driskel play quarterback.
Being as much of a devoted fan to the orange and black as I am to the red and black, and possessing some masochistic proclivities, I did decide to come home and, after watching the Reds hold on to win a wild game over the Brewers, spend the early overnight hours watching a DVR'd version of "Bengals" v. "Bucs."
If you are going to subject your self to preseason football, this is actually the way to do it. Skipping past commercials, blowing past the game's lulls, and being able to read in advance about plays you want to see and then anticipating them.
I watched the whole game in about an hour. Here's what I saw.
*Flashes from Joe Mixon. I remember the first time Carson Palmer played in a pro game, during the 2003 preseason. He had his ups and downs, but within his debut were a couple of throws that made my dad and I look at each other with knowing knowing giddiness, both of us acknowledging that we were about to experience a quarterback vastly different than the years of Akili Smith/Gus Frerotte/John Kitna garbage we'd been subjected to in recent years.
I remember the first time I saw Vontaze Burfict. In his first game as a Bengal, he made a diving interception of a terrible Tim Tebow pass (which is redundant) that was more athletic than any player I'd ever see a Bengals linebacker make. I turned to my friend and started to gush about Vontaze. My friend was not a football fan, so she didn't care.
I remember the first time I saw Giovani Bernard. Preseason 2013. Against the Falcons. There was a run play, then a pass play where Gio turned nothing into something, rather routine plays if you were just reading the game's play-by-play, but the kind of flash that made you consider the possibilities for Gio in an offense that was evolving.
Last night - or, early this morning - there was Joe Mixon, who showed nice combinations of patience and burst when taking handoffs and demonstrated elusiveness after his one pass reception. He showed flashes that offered a glimpse into the kind of talent the Bengals drooled over when evaluating him in the draft. He anyone in my house been awake, we would've exchanged knowing glances.
*Jeremy Hill did some stuff. I admit that I root for this guy more than I probably should. I think he's handled himself well over two trying years, and I'd like to not completely give up on the idea that he can be a part of the Bengals offense, despite being stuck in the middle between Mixon and Bernard.
Hill has to make the most of the opportunities he's given, and last night, he seized the moment. His numbers won't wow you, but Jeremy didn't look like the pensive, unsure runner we've seen so often over the past two seasons. He saw holes, and he hit them with power.
*Cedric Ogbuehi. Woof.
The Cedric Ogbuehi I watched last night is the same guy I wanted to run on the field to personally drag to the sideline last season.
*Will Clarke is this year's Margus Hunt. A year ago, I got a kick out of the people who were clinging to the idea that big Margus was due for a breakout season, in his fourth year after being drafted in the second round. I went into the preseason open-minded enough about the possibility that Margus could finally do something to help the team besides having such a bad haircut that it made everyone else's 'do look better.
Margus, of course, ended up doing little to reward my open-mindedness.
Will Clarke is, like Margus a year ago, a guy who's entering his fourth year, and while he did show some improvement last season - he actually out-sacked Michael Johnson - he's done very little to make you believe that he's going to live up to being taken in the third round in 2014.
Yet, on a daily basis I'll be told by someone that the key to an upgrade pass rush is a big season from Will.
So I went into my early-morning viewing expecting big things from him.
I went to bed without ever seeing them.
Jeff Driskel did some stuff. Usually, the part of a DVR'd game featuring the third string quarterback is the part I consume with my finger on the fast forward button, but the Bengals are in a different place with their number three this season.
They could be looking for a new backup heading into next season.
They might find someone that will meet their exorbatantly high asking price for their current backup.
And a team that will have some pretty competitive battles deep down the depth chart has to decided if keeping a third quarterback is worth cutting a player who plays another position.
Driskel made his case, engineering a couple of scoring drives, running for a touchdown, then hitting Josh Malone for a score.
Maybe Jeff Driskel is as good as AJ McCarron? I just typed that sentence to get a rise out of you.
*Cedric Ogbuehi aside, the offensive line played well. That's a big aside, but still, the fat guys did their job for the most part. But holy hell, Cedric Ogbuehi sucked.
*Two D-linemen had big games. You forgot that the Bengals for Chris Smith didn't you? Last night, he offered reminders as to why the team grabbed him from Jacksonville. Chris was unblockable at times, chasing down crappy Tampa quarterbacks and running down ball-carriers. I'm not sure he makes the team. I'm not sure if he does make the team how much he'll play, but Chris Smith's first game as a Bengal was a good one.
Jordan Willis, a big part of this year's draft, had a strong NFL debut. He had the game's first sack, added another pressure, and out-shined Michael Johnson, which is becoming less and less difficult to do.
*The kickers both had good games. It's a beautiful Saturday morning. If I'm spending it writing about kicking battles, something has gone wrong.
And finally, sometime after 2:30, I went to bed.