A.J. Green got involved early Friday night.
The Bengals unveiled their prized second-year tackles Friday night, deploying first-rounder Cedric Ogbuehi and second-rounder Jake Fisher for the first time together in a starting role during the 17-16 loss to the Vikings in the pre-season opener. Both took the most snaps of anyone on offense with 39.
Both appeared to hold up well enough. Ogbuehi, the starting right tackle, looked like he didn't give up much pressure in pass protection and Fisher, playing for left tackle Andrew Whitworth, gave up some but both kept quarterbacks Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron clean.
The starting offensive line took part in the 22-play second series that ended on the Vikings 4 when running back Cedric Peerman lost a yard on fourth-and-one. The line did a nice job in the running game even though the yards per wasn't great. They ran it 13 times for 31 yards in the drive, but they did convert four straight third-and-ones and looked good enough that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer called his run defense "soft." And running back Jeremy Hill gouged out more than five yards per on his three carries.
"I don't think we had our best week of practice against them," Ogbuehi said of the Wednesday and Thursday practices where the protection was spotty. "So it was kind of a challenge to get after them today and control them up front.
"I'm really upset we didn't score on the 22-play drive, but it was a great learning thing for me and Jake. That doesn't happen very often."
Fisher had a tough assignment against top flight right end Everson Griffen and it appeared that Griffen got some penetration on running back Giovani Bernard's two-yard loss on first-and-10 from the Vikings 37 on the game's first series. But it was a tough play from the beginning because Bernard stumbled even before he got the handoff from quarterback Andy Dalton.
Griffen and most of the first defense left after that play and Fisher was hoping he'd get another series against him. But he "gratefully," took the snaps on Wednesday and Thursday.
"I got a lot of bull work in. That's something I need to work on throughout camp," Fisher said of Griffen's straight bull rushes into his body. "I think he was a guy coming in with that mentality and I got a lot of work on that."
A slew of Bengals offensive lines helped quarterback Andy Dalton ring up a 112.8 passer rating.
GREEN-DALTON TAKE IT: Wide receiver A.J. Green looked a little relieved after it was over. He was not pleased after the practices on Wednesday and Thursday when the passing game looked so out of sync. But it looked sharp in the only series he and Dalton played Friday.
"We looked good. Tempo was good. Better," Green said. "Got to finish it off."
They hooked up on their first three targets for 26 yards as Dalton hit his first four throws on quick, intermediate passes. But Green took the blame for not getting free on the third-and-three slant from the Vikings 30 that sailed over him as he worked against cornerback Trae Waynes and the safety.
"(Waynes) jumped the route inside and had the leverage," Green said. "I should have got inside quicker to at least get the leverage."
NUGE NUDGE: Kicker Mike Nugent has been virtually perfect all camp with Zach Hocker sidelined. He figures he's missed one field goal out of about 40 tries with the team, but at the end of that first series his 48-yarder barely missed right.
"I peeked really quick and that's something I haven't done all camp," Nugent said. "It was poorly hit. I've been hitting the ball really well this camp. I didn't apply the way I've been kicking it. If I don't learn from it, there's no sense playing the games."
They're adjusting to the new rule that puts touchbacks on the 25 instead of the 20. The Bengals would like to have the ability to pin returners deep with kicks to the goal line. But when Nugent got the ball to the 6 on the second-half kickoff, the coverage failed and wide receiver Troy Stoudemire had a 33-yard return.
Nugent did have two touchbacks and one was a big one because it came after the Bengals had cut the lead to 17-16 with 2:45 left. He also hit one perfectly two yards deep and the coverage kept Stoudermire at his 20.
Stoudermire may have looked familiar. He was with the Bengals for one preseason a few years back.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: The back-up defense missed a great opportunity to take control of the game when they had running back Jerick McKinnon dead to rights for a tackle in the end zone when it was 0-0 early in the second quarter. The right side of the line penetrated, but the back side over pursued with left end Margus Hunt and linebacker P.J. Dawson letting McKinnon get free for 10-yard run that set up the Vikes' first touchdown …
On the first snap of that series safety Derron Smith came up in a furious run blitz to drop McKinnon for a two-yard loss …
Veteran safety Jimmy Wilson had an interception at the Bengals 37 in the fourth quarter when No. 3 quarterback Joel Stave threw it right to him …
Tough night for veteran cornerback Chykie Brown. Wide receiver Charles Johnson beat him for the first TD of the game on a wide-open 49-yarder even though he was called for illegal contact. On the last play of the half, Blair Walsh's 51-yard field goal, he was called for offsides …
Rookie free agent defensive tackle David Dean out of Virginia had an active night with the backups, but another rookie free agent, Mississippi State defensive end Ryan Brown, had the biggest stop of the game when he threw back Vikings running back C.J. Ham back for no gain on third-and-one so the Bengals could get the ball back at the two-minute warning for one last chance to win it …
They almost won it with a two-point conversion with 2:45 left and two rookie free agents almost pulled it off. No. 4 quarterback Joe Licata corked off a good back shoulder throw to wide receiver Antwane Grant but Grant couldn't quite secure it in the right corner.
"I'd do it again. That's my bread-and-butter," Licata said. "I don't think he saw the ball out of my hand."
Cincinnati Bengals face off with the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium in week 1 of the preseason 8/12/2016