5 things we learned from Bengals win over Rams in preseason finale

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals used every opportunity to evaluate players in some of the few position battles that remained during their preseason finale against the L.A. Rams.

Kicker Evan McPherson was the lone established starter to play, and he made all three of his field goals to help give the Bengals a lead they wouldn’t lose while the defense pitched a shutout through three quarters. After the Rams scored to make it a two-point game in the fourth quarter, Springboro High School graduate Justin Rigg caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning to seal a 16-7 win Saturday at Paycor Stadium.

The victory, which was billed as a Super Bowl rematch for the backups, was Cincinnati’s lone one of the preseason. Now the team turns toward the opener Sept. 11, but not until final roster cuts are made (the deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday). Here are five things learned from the game.

1. Left guard job settled

Bengals coach Zac Taylor had said not to read into Cordell Volson getting all the first-team reps at left guard during the joint practices with the Rams this week, but the rookie fourth-round pick didn’t play Saturday. Instead, the coaching staff let Jackson Carman play the entire game to try to make one last case for the job, but it was more of the same inconsistency.

Carman had two penalties and a missed block that led to a sack on Brandon Allen.

Taylor’s praise of Volson after the game spoke volumes about how he views the competition.

“I see steady improvement,” Taylor said. “He’s consistent. We know what we’re getting out of him. It’s real important to him. Again, we’ve seen steady improvement from him over the course of training camp.”

2. Rigg enjoys his moment

Rigg, an undrafted free agent from the University of Kentucky, didn’t have a single pass thrown his way until that fourth-quarter touchdown, but he hopes he was able to show enough in his blocking – especially in the running game – to earn consideration for a roster spot, a role with the practice squad or an opportunity with another team if not in Cincinnati.

“I’ll cherish that moment for the rest of my life, and looking forward, I hope there’s many more of those, but there’s always the first one and I’ll cherish that,” Rigg said.

Rigg had a crowd of about 35 friends and family members at the game, which made it that much more special. He kept the ball and plans to put it in a case.

Up until Rigg’s touchdown, the Bengals were 0-for-3 in the redzone.

3. Eyes on the punters

The Bengals could have sent McPherson out for about a 60-yard field goal in the third quarter but elected to see more from the punter competition. Taylor said the staff will “talk through it and come to a conclusion” as to whether to stick with the veteran Kevin Huber or go with new blood in Drue Chrisman.

Both Huber and Chrisman punted twice Saturday, including Huber in that long field goal range situation, and none of them were returnable, which is what the Bengals want. Huber had two for fair catches and Chrisman had one that went for a fair catch and one for a touchback.

“I think if you look at the statistics, it’s pretty much a dead heat at this point,” Chrisman said when asked if he thinks he did enough to win the job. “At the end of the day, I wasn’t really competing against (P Kevin Huber), I was just trying to be the best punter I could be, so we’ll see what (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) thinks and see how that goes in the next couple of days.”

4. Highlights on offense

The backup quarterback job never seemed in question with Brandon Allen returning for a third season, but Jake Browning had another strong performance. Browning completed 79.2 percent of his passes for 173 yards and one touchdown after replacing Allen late in the second quarter.

Taylor was complimentary of Browning’s performance but doesn’t seem to be swaying from Allen.

“Those guys have competed all of training camp, you know,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in Brandon. He’s got years in the system. He does a real good job operating our team. I think those guys have both done a nice job and done what we needed them to do.”

In the back of the wide receiver room, Trenton Irwin, Kendric Pryor and Kwamie Lassiter are all in the mix for the last spots. Irwin had nine catches for 93 yards, and Pryor finished with 65 yards on five receptions. Lassiter added five catches for 42 yards but muffed a punt and likely took himself out of the running there.

5. Defensive line depth

The Bengals have more depth on the defensive line than it once appeared, thanks to draft picks and players coming back from injury making an impact this preseason.

Third-round pick Zach Carter, who was drafted to help strengthen the interior pass rush, forced a fumble on a sack of Bryce Perkins in the third quarter, and had a quarterback hurry. Seventh-round pick Jeffrey Gunter has had a solid camp and finished with four tackles and one quarterback hurry Saturday. Noah Spence is a guy on the outside looking in, but he had a good day with a sack, tackle for loss and quarterback hurry.

“I want to be a part of it bad,” Carter said. “All camp, I’ve been working, fighting with the guys. We’ve been grinding. I’m just trying to help the team get better, honestly.”

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