Bengals feel good after 3 preseason games

Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) looks for a hole against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) looks for a hole against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton has looked sharp. The starting offense has moved the ball. The starting defense has been stingy on the scoring.

The Bengals like what they’ve seen through three preseason games, leaving them in good shape as they finish up and get ready for the ones that count.

Cincinnati (1-2) had no significant injuries to its starters during a 19-13 win in Arizona on Sunday night. Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict left in the first quarter with a pulled right hamstring.

Otherwise, things are looking good for the Bengals as they get set to finish the preseason on Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts (0-3) at Paul Brown Stadium. The starters aren’t expected to play much at all, saving them for the season opener on Sept. 7 at Baltimore.

“We need to keep that up when it gets super serious,” said cornerback Terence Newman, whose interception return provided the Bengals’ touchdown in Arizona. “The offense has been playing well as well.

“Right now, we’re playing pretty well. We have some things to cure up on both sides. I think we’ll be all right.”

One of the most encouraging developments has been the starting offense’s performance. The Bengals have gone to a more up-tempo approach under new coordinator Hue Jackson and have looked smooth in the no-huddle offense.

Dalton has completed 70.6 percent of his passes for 372 yards with one touchdown, no sacks and no interceptions, which equates to a passer rating of 116.3. Against the Cardinals, he was 13 of 21 for 157 yards while playing the first half.

“I’m very confident in what we have,” Dalton said. “The guys that we have on this team, the way that we’ve been playing, I think we’re ready to go for the opener.”

Dalton was 8 for 8 for 144 yards, one touchdown and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 during the second preseason game against the Jets, his first home game since he signed a six-year contract extension.

In Arizona, the Bengals had bad field position — drives starting at their own 9, 7, 38, 17, 7 and 4 yard lines in the first half. They punted the first four times, and then put together a pair of solid field-goal drives covering 73 yards in 13 plays and 88 yards in 10 plays.

Jackson wants the Bengals to run the ball more effectively, so that’s been a point of emphasis in the preseason. Second-round pick Jeremy Hill carried 12 times for 48 yards at Arizona and caught two passes for 10 yards. He dropped one pass and had two others intended for him that went incomplete.

“I had the drop,” Hill said. “It’s just bad on my part. I caught two other ones, but I’m going to focus on the drop. I have to watch it, see what I did wrong and get better from it.”

The Bengals ran 30 times for 122 yards overall, a pleasing 4.1-yard average.

“There were some plays that I remember that were pretty decent, and some that I wish I could take back,” Hill said. “All in all, I think it was an OK performance.”

The Bengals brought back the core of the team that won the AFC North last season and went to the playoffs for the third straight year, only to lose their opening game for the third year in a row. With so many returning starters, they expected to do well right away. The main thing in the preseason was to avoid injuries.

“We’re comfortable,” safety George Iloka said. “Everything’s clicking right now. We’re actually getting better, honestly.”

NOTES: The Bengals terminated the contract of fourth-year cornerback R.J. Stanford, making him a free agent. They also waived first-year defensive tackle Larry Black, rookie safety Isaiah Lewis, first-year kicker Quinn Sharp and fourth-year receiver Ryan Whalen.

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