KANSAS CITY, Mo. - After the Bengals open the preseason Saturday night out here against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, quarterback Andy Dalton’s performance is going to be microscoped into oblivion and you have to ask, what exactly does it all mean?
After all, he’s probably not going to play more than ten snaps and he’s played just one series in half of his eight openers. So you can’t take it in the veins. But, at the very least, the first outing can set a tone and it can do even more than that given it’s the first stand for new head coach Zac Taylor and his new offense.
But Taylor looks to have the same plan Marvin Lewis had for a starting veteran quarterback. Once he looks sharp, get him the heck out of there, don’t get him hit and make sure he gets the ball out fast and see if he can hit a long one.
, Although, last year, in a new offense, Lewis sent out Dalton for two series. Don’t look for that this trip unless the first series is a short one. But remember how Dalton and the first offense lit it up right away in 2018 against the Bears at Paul Brown Stadium? He went six of eight for 103 yards with two TDs and an interception, which set the tone for an offense that had a terrific September until October and the injuries hit.
He did it with wide receiver A.J. Green making catches of 22 and 26 yards, running back Joe Mixon making a 24-yard-catch-and-run touchdown and wide receiver John Ross adding a 20-yard catch. Dalton won’t have any of those guys against the Chiefs.
The 2017 opener may have foreshadowed that the Bengals offense would struggle, but no one would have thought that there would be a coordinator change in a month. He worked one series against Tampa Bay at PBS and it ended in an interception after he hit his first four passes for 38 yards.
That wasn’t the disaster. The disaster was that the first team didn’t score a touchdown until the third week of the regular season.
The 2016 opener marked a season the Bengals had a new offensive coordinator and Dalton’s numbers were similar against the Vikings at home. He went 4-for-5 for 32 yards, no pick and got a 48-yard field goal from Mike Nugent.
When Dalton had a Most Valuable Player-type season in 2015 before he got hurt, he only needed one series in the pre-season opener against the Giants at PBS to get a three-yard TD pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. He needed only two other passes to the other two guys that would be his top targets that season, both completions to Green and tight end Tyler Eifert.
But in 2013, when Dalton would lead the Bengals to the AFC North title while setting the franchise’s record for touchdown passes, the pre-season opener in Atlanta provided no glimpse of what would transpire. He struggled in two series that ended in punts (3-for-7, 37 yards) on 11 snaps.
So what’s it all mean? It probably means Taylor wouldn’t mind Dalton doing what he did the last time they opened the preseason in Arrowhead. In 2014, Dalton worked one drive, hit Green on a 53-yard bomb and got Nugent’s 30-yard field goal in finishing three of five for 71 yards. The Bengals went on to win ten games and make the playoffs without Eifert, a starting wide receiver in Marvin Jones and Green not making a catch in five games because of injury.
FIRST GAME CAPTAINS: Taylor's first game captains: Dalton, safety Shawn Williams, safety Clayton Fejedelem wide receiver and two guys not playing Saturday, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and running back Giovani Bernard.
OPENING LINEUP: Starting right cornerback William Jackson got a tweak in Thursday’s practice and it’s considered minor, but it got him scratched from Saturday’s game. B.W. Webb, in his first Bengals game since signing as a free agent from the Giants, got the call. Webb, the regular nickel corner, has had a very nice training camp in his reunion with Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, his secondary coach in New York.
When Webb slides inside, look for Tony McRae, Darius Phillips or Davontae Harris to play outside.
Defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, in his first game back since overcoming ACL surgery 11 months ago, got the start when Geno Atkins got a Pro Bowl game off.
John Jerry gets that first start at left guard as the derby continues. He’ll play with the first group and figures to be followed by Christian Westerman before rookie Michael Jordan runs with the threes.
It’s a work in progress. Trey Hopkins probably gets time at left guard in Washington on Thursday, but against the Chiefs he’s expected to play center with the second group.
With Green (ankle) and Ross (hamstring) sidelined, Josh Malone got the start in place of Green and Cody Core took Ross’ place at wide receiver. But rookie free agent Damion Willis is expected to get plenty of looks early.
Rookie running back Trayveon Williams starts his first NFL game and with just three backs available, he’ll get plenty of carries with rookie free agent Jordan Ellis and last year’s practice squad member Quinton Flowers getting the rest.