The Cincinnati Bengals fell 36-19 to the Green Bay Packers in both teams’ preseason openers Friday night at Paycor Stadium. As expected, 21 of the 22 starters did not dress, creating plenty of opportunities for the guys fighting for some of the final roster spots.
Here is the instant reaction on the Bengals’ winners and losers after the first 60 minutes of the preseason.
Winners and Losers From Bengals vs. Packers
Winner | Tycen Anderson
Last year’s fifth-round pick missed the entire regular season with the world’s longest hamstring injury, which he suffered in the preseason finale. On the first defensive series of his return, Anderson picked off a Sean Clifford pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown, the only one the Bengals would score in the game.
Anderson entered the contest in the second quarter after Dax Hill played the first three series. Defensive tackle Domenique Davis got pressure up the middle, forcing Clifford to rush the throw, and Anderson had an easy snag and score.
Later in the first half, Anderson picked off another Clifford pass with a higher degree of difficulty, ripping it away from Green Bay tight end Tucker Kraft.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 12, 2023
Anderson, who also had a tackle on kickoff coverage, is battling veteran Mike Thomas for the fourth safety spot, and splash plays like the two he had against the Packers obviously will boost his chances.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 12, 2023
Winner | Dax Hill
While it might seem like he should fall in the “losers” category as the only projected starter who had to suit up and play, but after getting just 131 snaps on defense last year, the 2022 first-round pick should be willing to take all the reps he can get.
Hill played the first three possessions and made his biggest play on the opening series when Packers quarterback Jordan Love took a deep shot up the left sideline for Christian Watson, who had gotten behind rookie cornerback DJ Turner. Hill did a great job racing from his spot in the middle of the field to close in on Watson and bat the ball away.
.@daxhill5 said NOPE.
— NFL (@NFL) August 11, 2023
Winner | Andre Iosivas
The rookie sixth-round pick led the Bengals with 10 targets and 50 receiving yards. Only four of the balls throw his way ended in receptions, but there were multiple plays in which flags could have/should have been thrown but weren’t.
One of his biggest highlights was an incomplete pass. Iosivas did a great job adjusting to a Trevor Siemian pass in the end zone and made a circus effort to get both feet in, but he lost control of the ball going to the ground.
Winner | Jake Browning
He didn’t look all that good.
But the fact that he got the start and played the whole first half would suggest he’s a little ahead of Siemian in what has been an uninspiring competition for the backup job to Joe Burrow.
Browning was 10-of-17 for 95 yards with an interception, which came on a pass that was a little high but went off the hands of receiver Shedrick Jackson and right to Green Bay rookie cornerback and Cincinnati native Carrington Valentine.
The interception came just two plays after Anderson’s second interception of the game gave the Bengals the ball at the Green Bay 36 with 1:04 left in the first half.
Winner | Chris Evans
Firmly on the roster bubble as the fourth running back, Evans needed a solid performance. He delivered with one of the offense’s biggest splash plays, a 32-yard run early in the second quarter in which he broke a tackle and nearly went the distance but was brought down from behind with a shoestring tackle.
Evans also had the tackle on the opening kickoff of the game, and a tackle after a Siemian interception, preventing what would have been a much longer return.
it's chris evans season pic.twitter.com/RUrdBGHOHx
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 11, 2023
Evans did have a rush for minus-3 yards in the third quarter, but that wasn’t on him. Green Bay cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles was unblocked and waiting for him in the backfield.
Evans finished with 49 rushing yards on seven carries. He also had a 12-yard run wiped out by a holding penalty.
Winner | Evan McPherson
Hardly a surprise, but McPherson was 4-of-4 on field goal attempts, hitting from 38, 39, 43, and 51 yards. McPherson is 18 of 19 on field goals in his seven career preseason games.
Winner | Drew Sample
The veteran tight end did not dress, which indicates where he stands in the hierarchy of the position. Sample is healthy after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 last year, but he hasn’t shown much in the first three weeks of camp. But clearly, he’s shown enough to the coaches to get the night off with the other key pieces on the roster.
Loser | Sidney Jones IV
The veteran corner the Bengals signed in free agency is trying to hold off second-round rookie DJ Turner for the fourth cornerback job, but he was targeted early and often by Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love and allowed several receptions, one of which resulted in the first touchdown of the game. Jones was actually in good position on that play but didn’t get his head turned around in time in the end zone, and Love hit Romeo Doubs for a 9-yard touchdown.
Loser | Shaka Heyward
The undrafted rookie linebacker had back-to-back plays in a high-leverage spot with the Packers driving late in the second quarter. Heyward took a bad angle on a scramble by Green Bay quarterback Sean Clifford, resulting in a 13-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the Cincinnati 6.
On the next play, Heyward got beat by Packers tight end Tyler Davis on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Clifford that put Green Bay back in front 21-16 with 22 seconds left before halftime.
Loser | Tanner Hudson
Tough to put the young tight end in this category because he played well and caught a team-high four passes for 29 yards in the first half. But Hudson suffered a concussion after trying to hurdle a defender on his final catch.
Any lost reps for a player battling for one of the final spots on the 53-man roster can be critical. We’ll see how quickly Hudson can bounce back and return to practice.
The Bengals looked thin at the position throughout the offseason, especially when they didn’t draft one with any of their eight picks. Head coach Zac Taylor repeatedly said the coaches were optimistic about the young talent they had in the room, and Hudson was on his way to validating that belief before the injury.
Loser | Jeff Gunter
Another player on the fringe, the 2022 seventh-round defensive end had an illegal block above the waist on the first punt return and a neutral zone infraction on third-and-4, giving the Packers a first down on the way to their first touchdown.
On the plus side, he batted a screen pass intended for tight end Luke Musgrave.
Loser | Trevor Siemian
The veteran quarterback didn’t enter the game until the third quarter, and his third was batted by Green Bay linebacker Benton Cox and intercepted by safety Dallin Leavitt. The Packers converted the pick into a field goal for a 24-16 lead.
In Siemian’s defense, the third-team offensive line was a train wreck for the majority of the second half.
Siemian finished 15-of-27 for 121 yards and the interception.
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