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Bengals Close The 2021 Preseason At Home Against The Dolphins

The first-team defense has played four combined series the first two preseason games, and during that span has allowed just 3.2 yards per play while recording two sacks, forcing and recovering a fumble, forcing two punts, and recording a fourth-and-one stop.
The first-team defense has played four combined series the first two preseason games, and during that span has allowed just 3.2 yards per play while recording two sacks, forcing and recovering a fumble, forcing two punts, and recording a fourth-and-one stop.

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air nationally on CBS-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WKRC-TV (Ch. 12) in Cincinnati, WHIO-TV (Ch. 7) in Dayton and on WKYT-TV (Ch. 27) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Adam Archuleta (analyst) and AJ Ross (sideline reporter).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst). WLW-AM (700) will join the flagship stations in broadcasting the Bengals game once its broadcast of the Cincinnati Reds game concludes (the Reds game begins at 1:10 p.m. Eastern).

Setting the scene: The Bengals on Sunday face the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium in their 2021 preseason finale. Last week, Cincinnati fell 17-13 at Washington in a game dominated by both defenses. It was the second-straight strong performance by the Bengals' defense, after allowing just 2.7 yards per play in the preseason opener against Tampa Bay.

"Our defense did a nice job (at Washington)," said Bengals head coach Zac Taylor. "(The first-team defense) held them to a punt, had a turnover on downs there with a big four-down stop on the red zone fringe, and then had the fumble that got them off the field in the high red zone."

The first-team defense has played four combined series the first two preseason games, and during that span has allowed just 3.2 yards per play while recording two sacks, forcing and recovering a fumble, forcing two punts, and recording a fourth-and-one stop. But, as Taylor pointed out, none of those accomplishments were their most important statistic.

"Zero points," he said. "You know that's the one that matters. Two games in a row, (the first-team defense) allowed zero points. That's all that I really care about."

On offense, one of the most heavily discussed topics all offseason was the offensive line, and more specifically how it would perform under new offensive line coach/run game coordinator Frank Pollack. Through two preseason games, the returns have been mostly positive, as the only sack Cincinnati has allowed was on a play with a faulty snap cadence.

"I don't even look at who's going to win the starting spots," Taylor said of the position battles across the line. "We're going to evaluate everyone and decide what's the best fit for us moving forward. I thought we did good things in the run game (against Washington). It all ties together with the run and the pass."

But despite solid play from the offensive line, the Bengals' starters struggled to move the ball against Washington.

"Out of rhythm," is how Taylor described the offensive performance at Washington. "We had a penalty on the first play of the game that set us back, and then they just played some man coverage on critical downs where you've got throw and catch, and we didn't. We had some opportunities that were there. But when you don't convert those third downs early on, it's hard to get into a rhythm and get a chance to do a lot of things we want to do on the call sheet."

It should be noted, though, that the first-team offense has been without QB Joe Burrow the first two games, as the Bengals continue to play it safe with their star QB. Burrow suffered a season-ending left knee injury on Nov. 22 last season, but was medically cleared in time to take the first snap of training camp on July 28. He has participated fully in every practice, save for one scheduled rest day, but the team has chosen thus far to hold him out of preseason game action. Burrow will play a limited number of snaps on Sunday.

Miami enters Sunday's matchup 1-1 in preseason, after a 37-17 win over Atlanta on Saturday.

The series: Sunday's game marks the first preseason meeting between the Bengals and Dolphins since 1975. The teams did, however, meet each year in preseason between 1969 and '75. The Dolphins hold a 4-3 series lead in preseason, with three of the previous matchups taking place in Cincinnati and four in Miami. The Dolphins won the last meeting, 7-3, in Miami in 1975.

In regular-season play, Miami has been the second-toughest opponent the Bengals have encountered in their 54-year history, based on series winning percentage. The Dolphins hold a 18-7 edge, including 1-0 in postseason, for a .720 success rate. The Dolphins' overall winning percentage against the Bengals trails only the San Francisco 49ers (12-4, .750).

The two squads are an even 2-2 over the last four regular-season meetings, dating back to 2016. Miami's wide edge in the series is due largely to a nine-game winning streak between 1978-2000.

The one playoff game in series history was an AFC Divisional contest, won 34-16 by the Dolphins at the Orange Bowl in 1973.

Bengals leaned on 2020 rookies: Despite the lack of an offseason program to ease the college-to-pro adjustment, the Bengals in 2020 leaned heavily upon their draft class. The seven players drafted by Cincinnati in April combined to play in 96 games, with 33 starts. For perspective, the most combined games played by a Bengals draft class since 1994 (the year the draft went to seven rounds) is 99, achieved by the 11-player draft class of 2017. The most combined starts over the same period is 50, by the nine-player draft class of 1998.

Bengals' picks stay in stripes: A useful measurement of talent evaluation in the draft is the ability of a team's picks to make their own active roster. The Bengals are among the best in the NFL in that category.

At the end of the 2020 regular season, there were 26 players on Cincinnati's roster who entered the NFL as Bengals draft picks. That total was tied for seventh in the NFL. It should also be noted that Cincinnati had eight players on Reserve/Injured who were Bengals draft picks.

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