First-round pick John Ross made his debut, and it didn’t take long for him to get involved.
The wide receiver lined up in the slot for the offense’s seventh snap of the game, and four plays later he got his first touch when he took a handoff from Dalton on a jet sweep and picked up 8 yards.
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Ross was targeted twice in the passing game but did not record a catch.
“It was amazing to be in that atmosphere and be a part of the team and finally get out there and play,” Ross said. “I was out there thinking too much, but I think that’s just a rookie thing. It’s going to be like that for a little while. I still have a lot of growing to do, a lot of learning to do.”
After not reaching the end zone on its first four drives of the preseason, the Cincinnati Bengals offense delivered a dominant statement to start the game.
The Bengals not only drove 87 yards in 15 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard run by Jeremy Hill, they converted two third-and-long plays along the way and got the ball into the hands of five different playmakers.
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After a first down was wiped out by offensive pass interference on tight end Tyler Kroft, Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green for a 17-yard gain on third and 13. Later the team faced third and 11 at the Washington 17, and Dalton again went to Green for a 14-yard gain to the 3, with Hill scoring on the next play.
In addition to Ross’ jet sweep, rookie Joe Mixon had a pair of carries to pick up first downs, and wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught a 12-yard pass for another of the seven first downs the Bengals picked up on the drive.
The official statisticians charged Dalton with the lost fumble on the second play of the second possession, but the blame clearly belongs with running back Joe Mixon.
The rookie appeared to take his eyes off the ball and close his hands before Dalton could put it in his chest. Washington defensive lineman A.J. Francis fell on the ball at the Cincinnati 31, and four plays later Dustin Hopkins hit a 51-yard field goal to give the Redskins their first points.
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“I was pleased with things to begin the football game other than Joe’s fumble,” Lewis said. “Offensively we had some good positives. We’ve just got to keep coming. We can’t have a fumble.”
Defensive end Chris Smith has been making a bid for a roster spot by destroying backup quarterbacks in the second half of the first two preseason games, but he got a chance to show what he could do against All-Pro Trent Edwards on Sunday, and the result was the same.
Smith beat Edwards on the third play of the game to record his second sack of the preseason, temporarily moving himself into a share of the team lead with rookie Jordan Willis. But Willis, who also saw some snaps against the Washington starters, reclaimed the lead with a sack of Colt McCoy in the third quarter while forcing a fumble that teammate DeShawn Williams recovered.
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Rookie Carl Lawson, who missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, also got in on the act, beating Williams for a sack of Kirk Cousins late in the first quarter.
“It was good exposure tonight for Carl after not playing last week,” Lewis said. “What he needs to do is get back confidence and so forth and play. He got to play a lot in base defense in the second half, and those are good things and we just got to keep it coming.”
Tyler Eifert was a surprise addition to the “not expected to play list” released 90 minutes before kickoff, but head coach Marvin Lewis said after the game the tight end is dealing with a little tendinitis in his knee.
“I told him let’s shut him down for today and keep him ready for when it counts,” Lewis said.
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Linebacker Vontaze Burfict suffered injuries to his back and head while tackling Washington receiver Terrelle Pryor midway through the second quarter. Burfict cleared concussion protocol but did not return.
Running back Jeremy Hill left with an ankle injury but told reporters after the game he is fine. Running back Cedric Peerman (elbow) and tight end Mason Schreck (knee) also left the game.
On the other side of the injury issue, running back Giovani Bernard and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick made their preseason debuts. Bernard carried four times for 21 yards, and Kirkpatrick had one tackle and a quarterback hit.
Randy Bullock made a 53-yard field goal, and rookie Jake Elliott missed from 45.
The duo had been a combined 8 of 8 before the Elliott miss, which would have drawn the Bengals within 17-16 of the Redskins with 5:23 left in the third quarter.
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While Elliott appeared to have the edge coming into camp given the fact the Bengals used a fifth-round pick on him, he’s struggled at times in practice and the intra-squad scrimmage and Bullock appears to have a discernible edge heading in the final preseason game.
Bullock is 5 of 5 with makes from 54, 53, 49, 47 and 26 yards, and there’s no guarantee Elliott will get enough chances to make up ground in the preseason finale Thursday at Indianapolis.