The Cincinnati Bengals wrapped up their preseason on Sunday night following a 29-26 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
With final roster cuts looming, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and his staff will spend the next two weeks getting ready for the season-opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 12 at Paul Brown Stadium.
Bengals preseason finale:How the players competing for a roster spot played
Here's what we learned from Cincinnati's preseason finale:
Joe Burrow sees first-game action at Paul Brown Stadium since suffering knee injury
Three quick plays and quarterback Joe Burrow went back to the sideline for the remainder of the game. Burrow was greeted back on the field at Paul Brown Stadium with a standing ovation from the crowd.
Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback tore his ACL and MCL in the Bengals’ Week 11 loss to the Washington Football Team in 2020. Burrow impressed in the 10 games he played during his rookie season. Wanting to bank a few game reps with his teammates prior to the season-opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Burrow will now have three game reps to review.
Burrow took three snaps on the Bengals’ first offensive drive of the game. On the first play, Burrow handed the ball off to wide receiver Tyler Boyd. The second play, Burrow’s only pass of the game, was a bubble screen to Ja’Marr Chase who dropped the ball. Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback’s day ended with a handoff to running back Joe Mixon who rushed for five yards.
"Felt good to be back," Burrow said following the game. "Not only for me but to be back in front of the fans. We didn’t have any last year. I guess we did for a few games at the end, but its good to see all the fans out there and how excited they are about the year."
There's no moral victories happening for Burrow at this point. The 24-year-old says he doesn't have time to look backwards, he's focused on the future and getting his team ready to play in Week 1.
"It’s time to get focused on Week 1," Burrow said. "The journey has really just started, there’s nothing to really reflect on yet."
First-round pick Ja’Marr Chase continues to drop passes
Ja’Marr Chase has now dropped four consecutive passes in preseason game action. Coming off a strong week of practice, Chase appeared to be trending in the right direction. Chase dropped three passes – all on third down – in Cincinnati’s second preseason game against the Washington Football Team.
After dropping a bubble screen from Burrow on the second play of the first offensive series, Chase continues to struggle to catch the ball in games for the Bengals. The previous drops came off passes thrown by backup quarterback Brandon Allen.
Albeit it’s the preseason and these games don’t matter; Taylor has said he expects his wide receivers to catch the ball. Chase is not doing what the Bengals drafted him to do routinely.
Taylor reiterated he's not worried about Chase. The third-year head coach said what he sees from his rookie receiver in practice is why he remains confident despite the drops.
"Those that have been at practice have seen him make some great plays these last couple days, so he’s making great progress," Taylor said.
Given the chemistry Burrow and Chase have from their time at LSU together, the drops Chase continues to have during practice and games is puzzling. The No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft also never had a history of not being able to catch the ball.
Pass rushers Darius Hodge, Khalid Kareem could be key depth players for Bengals
The Bengals will likely be without defensive end Joseph Ossai for the season. In Cincinnati’s first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Ossai sacked Tom Brady and finished the night with five quarterback pressures.
Ossai looked like he could have been the steal of the draft but before he could even get through his first preseason game, he suffered two injuries. The third-round pick hurt his wrist and knee in his debut.
Taylor confirmed the rookie had surgery earlier this week and said he would be using the Bengals’ final preseason game to see who could fill Ossai’s role. Khalid Kareem, a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, showed his impact right away against the Dolphins. Kareem recorded one sack, one pass deflection and two tackles after missing the second preseason game with a shoulder injury.
Hodge tallied his second sack of the preseason and has consistently impressed in each game thus far. After signing with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent out of Marshall, Hodge switched from linebacker to defensive end. The position change appears to be benefiting Hodge as the rookie is pushing for a spot on the 53-man roster.