It’s hard to resist the temptation of placing too much stock in preseason games. At the same time, it’s difficult to neglect the energy the Bengals played with last night. Coach Marvin Lewis said before the game he wanted them to play high-tempo and the Bengals took their coach’s words to heart, as they used a strong second-half performance to beat the Buccaneers 23-12. Here are some takeaways from the game:

Carl Lawson changes the defense’s dynamic

On the Buccaneers’ first drive, Jameis Winston had ample time to pick the Bengals’ secondary apart. He completed his first four throws and led Tampa Bay into the red zone. The Bengals brought Carl Lawson into the game, and you could tell a difference immediately. The defensive line was able to get enough penetration for Winston to quicken his release.

Bengals are loaded at running back

Everyone raved about Joe Mixon’s performance and rightly so, it’s clear he’s a game changer. However, he wasn’t the only Bengals’ back to have a good night. Jeremy Hill made an outstanding stutter step on a 3rd and 1 to help the Bengals pick up a key first-down on their opening drive of the night. When Hill had the ball, he displayed explosiveness, nimble footwork, and good vision.

And now, a highlight from the Joe Mixon show:

What a special talent he could be.

Offensive tackles with uneven performance

The development of the offensive line or lack thereof is the compass for this team’s season. And the main focus is on the offensive tackles since the Bengals struggled most with edge pass protection last season.

What was impressive was the young offensive tackles engaged defenders and kept their feet moving. This helped Hill squeeze through a hole for a first down. But there were breakdowns too which contributed to plays for a loss. This isn’t surprising for a unit looking to develop its momentum. Still, if there is one area to watch for the rest of the preseason, this is the one to watch.

Stray observations

Winston is on the cusp of greatness. He has an instinctive pocket presence and excellent touch on his passes. Having Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson to throw to means he could be ready to elevate his game to the next level.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Andy Dalton had a good start but a bad finish. He completed his first four passes before telegraphing a pass the Buccaneers picked off right at their one-yard line. Being the competitor Dalton is, he’ll learn from it and come back even stronger next week.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel made the most of his opportunity leading the team in passing yards with 97 and rushing with 34 yards. He also accounted for two touchdowns, including this one that gave the Buccaneers the domino effect:

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