NFL Nation: 2013 preseason reaction Week 4 colts-bengals

Observation deck: Colts-Bengals

August, 29, 2013
CINCINNATI -- No Andrew Luck. No Reggie Wayne. No Cory Redding. No Antoine Bethea or Robert Mathis, either.

In what’s the biggest yawner of the preseason because starting players rarely play, the preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals was all about borderline players trying to make one final impression on front office officials and the coaching staff before the 53-man roster has to be set by Saturday evening.

Here are other observations from the Indianapolis Colts’ 27-10 loss to the Bengals:
  • Third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish played for all but the first two series of the game. He didn’t do anything to help his case to play behind Luck and Matt Hasselbeck. But that’s not surprising, because Harnish struggled the entire preseason. Harnish started 2-of-6 but managed complete six of his next seven passes to finish 8-of-13 for 55 yards and a touchdown. He was also sacked twice. Harnish’s best bet is that he’ll be brought back to be the team’s practice-squad quarterback.
  • Rookie running back Kerwynn Williams took advantage of Ahmad Bradshaw not playing and Vick Ballard getting only a handful of snaps to be the lone bright spot on offense. The seventh-round pick rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries. Williams will likely be the fourth running back on the depth chart. He’ll also be the team’s primary kick returner. "He's got the heart of a lion," coach Chuck Pagano said. "He's produced really every week and made big plays. He's put enough out there so you have to give it some heavy consideration."
  • Safety Larry Asante followed up his 48-yard interception return for a touchdown against Cleveland last weekend by getting a sack and also recovering a fumble in the first half. Asante had a game-high 13 tackles. He had only four tackles total in the first three preseason games. Asante's play the past two games keeps him in the mix to make the roster as one of the safeties.
  • Receiver/kick returner David Reed, acquired from Baltimore on Aug. 21, left the game with a concussion.
  • Linebacker Caesar Rayford stood at his locker still in his pads mad at himself long after the game. The rookie seemed to be in a good position to make the team with a team-high five sacks heading into Thursday. But he wasn't pleased that he didn't close out the preseason the way he wanted to. He had only two tackles against the Bengals, with one of the tackles being in the open field. Rayford did enough early in the preseason to earn a roster spot.
  • Linebacker Daniel Adongo, the rugby player attempting to play football for the first time, didn’t play during the preseason because Pagano wasn’t comfortable putting him the game. That didn’t stop a press box announcer from saying Adongo had a special-teams tackle in the first half. A No. 46 got the tackle for the Colts, but it wasn’t Adongo. It was tight end Dominique Jones. Jones later caught a touchdown pass from Harnish.
What’s next: The Colts open the regular season against the Oakland Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Sept. 8.

Observation deck: Bengals-Colts

August, 29, 2013

Fantasy alert: Giovani Bernard can score in the red zone.

In the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-10 victory Thursday over the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason finale, Bernard finished off the Bengals' first drive with a 1-yard touchdown. It marked the third 1-yard touchdown for the 5-foot-9, 208-pound Bernard. While starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a touchdown machine (30 rushing touchdowns in the past three seasons), Bernard should get some chances to punch the ball in, if the preseason is any indication.

“To me, it’s all about determination and heart. How bad do you want that touchdown?" quarterback Andy Dalton said at halftime. "I really think anybody should be able to get 1 yard if you want it bad enough, no matter your size.”

Bernard showed toughness in the open field, too. After taking a dump-off pass from Josh Johnson, Bernard ran for 16 yards and delivered a hit on a Colts defensive back before going out of bounds. Bernard finished with 28 yards on five touches.

Overall, it was a crisp effort by the Bengals after a sloppy performance last week in Dallas. Cincinnati had one turnover (Cedric Peerman's fumble didn't lead to any points) and committed two penalties.

Here are my other thoughts on the final preseason game for the Bengals, who finished 3-1:
  • Dalton made a cameo appearance, leading the Bengals to a touchdown in his only drive of the night. He completed one pass for 18 yards, a short pass to Mohamed Sanu, who broke a tackle. Dalton's only other pass was an underthrown ball to receiver A.J. Green in the end zone, but Green drew a pass-interference penalty. The Bengals got the ball on the 1-yard line, where Bernard scored the game's first touchdown.
  • Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur was carted off the field in the first quarter with a right-shoulder injury. Lamur is one of the Bengals' top backups and plays in their nickel defense. If Lamur is lost for a significant amount of time, the player who could benefit the most is J.K. Schaffer, who had a mauling, third-down sack and an interception against the Colts.
  • Brandon Tate once again provided a spark on special teams. After scoring on a 75-yard punt return in his last preseason game, he set up the first touchdown with a 51-yard kickoff return. This latest big return happened because of great blocking by the Bengals, and Tate just had to hit the open lane.
  • It looks like John Conner will be the Bengals' starting fullback. He was the first fullback to play, and he was the lead blocker on Bernard's touchdown. Orson Charles, who has been battling Conner for the job, could still make the team because of his versatility. The Bengals may decide to keep Charles as the third fullback (behind Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert) and cut Alex Smith.
  • Backup quarterback Johnson still struggles with his accuracy, but he can make big plays with his feet. He led the Bengals in rushing in the first half with 38 yards on two scrambles. As far as his passing, he was 4-of-5 for 26 yards and one touchdown on his first two drives (both scoring drives). His touchdown pass, a 3-yard toss to Marvin Jones, was on the same fade route as the incompletion thrown by Dalton earlier in the game. For the rest of the first half, Johnson was 3-of-8 for 41 yards. John Skelton, the Bengals' other backup, was 6-of-10 for 99 yards, which probably won't be enough to leapfrog Johnson for the job.
  • The first-team defense got pressure on Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Linebacker James Harrison nailed Hasselbeck on an inside blitz to force an incompletion, and defensive tackle Geno Atkins pressured on third down to rush Hasselbeck into another incompletion.