Here are seven things we learned about the reigning AFC North champions:
1. Pass protection could be an issue
The offensive line struggled to protect Carson Palmer last week in training camp and again against the Cowboys.
Analysis:I found it alarming last week in training camp that so many defenders were getting in quarterback Carson Palmer’s face and clogging the passing lanes. Dallas defenders did the same, and on Sunday they were allowed to hit the quarterback. In just two offensive series, Palmer took a few hits, including one sack, that stalled the passing game. Palmer completed 2 of 5 passes for 18 yards as Cincinnati’s offensive line had trouble with Dallas’ pressure.
Analysis: Both of Palmer's completed passes were to Owens. Playing together for the first time, they looked fairly in sync. Owens' two receptions for 18 yards included a timing route that resulted in a first down. Palmer and Owens also hooked up on a slant route, but the play was called back because of a penalty. Cincinnati made it a point to get Owens opportunities. He was targeted four times in the first quarter. "We're a work in progress," Owens said. "We're getting there. It felt just like practice."
Analysis: Cincinnati’s coaching staff also made sure Jones, in his first game action since 2008, got a lot of snaps. Jones looked athletic and aggressive starting in place of injured cornerback Johnathan Joseph (thigh). He had good coverage on the first pass of the game, an incompletion to Dallas receiver Miles Austin. Jones also recorded three tackles and returned kicks.
4. Cincinnati's QB depth is problematic
Analysis: If Sunday were any indication, it’s vital for Palmer to stay healthy for all 16 games this season. Backup quarterbacks J.T. O’Sullivan and Jordan Palmer played some awful football Sunday. There were plenty of shaky moments as the pair combined for three interceptions. O’Sullivan finished 4-of-11 for 33 yards and one pick. He had a 7.0 passer rating. Jordan Palmer completed 10 of 20 passes for 102 yards and had a late touchdown, but also had two really bad interceptions.
5. Red-zone defense looks solid
Analysis: The Bengals' first-team defense wasn't perfect, but the red-zone defense had a great goal-line stand against a potent Dallas offense. Cincinnati stopped quarterback Tony Romo on three consecutive throws from the 2 to force a field goal. The coverage was solid on each play.
6. Bengals need to clean up mental errors
Analysis: It’s the first preseason game, so I won't make a big deal out of this just yet. But there were nine Bengals penalties for 60 yards in the first half, when most of the players who will make the team (either as starters or backups) were in the game. But it’s the mental errors that will drive Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis crazy. The penalties included neutral zone infractions and offsides. That stuff must be cleaned up.
7. Bengals suffered injuries
Analysis: Cincinnati suffered injuries to two key contributors. Starting safety Chris Crocker hurt his right ankle in the first quarter on special teams and didn’t return. Backup running back Brian Leonard also was diagnosed with a mid-foot sprain. Both players will be further evaluated this week in Cincinnati.