Bengals have talent, but defense has reason to be concerned

CINCINNATI -- It just wasn't a good night for the Cincinnati Bengals' defense, and that's concerning at this point in the preseason.

The Bengals will presumably sit most of their starters in the fourth preseason game against the Colts, so they essentially have one week and one game against the Redskins to iron out the kinks after a 30-12 loss to the Chiefs.

The Bengals didn't play starting cornerbacks Adam Jones or Dre Kirkpatrick, but the rest of their first-team defense didn't exactly stand out. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith had plenty of time in the pocket to complete a 36-yard pass to Travis Kelce.

Kareem Hunt shoved Shawn Williams aside for a 25-yard run that had plenty of missed tackles by the Bengals, and Josh Shaw helplessly chased tight end Demetrius Harris on a touchdown pass in the end zone on what looked to be a blown assignment.

Clearly, there's work to be done.

QB depth chart: Starting quarterback Andy Dalton played most of the first half and completed 7 of 13 passes for 98 yards, but there were one or two plays he'd probably like back. One pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage and another was dropped by A.J. Green. AJ McCarron did a good job of leading the Bengals down the field during the two-minute drill to end the first half but was picked off in the second half. He finished 8-of-15 for 93 yards.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Bengals looked inconsistent: Nick Vigil had a good night in his second game as the Bengals' starting strongside linebacker. On the offensive side, Dalton had several sharp passes for double-digit gains but threw two incomplete passes as the team settled for a field goal. Dalton was sacked for a 13-yard loss but dumped off a short pass to rookie Joe Mixon on the next play that Mixon was able to turn into a 15-yard gain with some nice footwork. There was good and bad on both sides, but there's still work to do.

One reason to be concerned: The starting defense continues to give up long drives. The Bengals tried out some different blitzes but got zero pressure the 36-yard completion from Smith to Kelce. It was a problem last season that seems to have leaked into this one. The Bengals' lack of pass-rush overall could be a concern. If nobody does their part beyond Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, it could be a long year for the defensive line.

That guy could start: Alex Erickson proved he was good enough to unseat Brandon Tate as kick returner last season, and he's making his case again this year as to why he should make the 53-man roster. Erickson is going to be hard to leave off the roster.

He has been the Bengals' best kickoff returner but is also showing nice moves at wide receiver. Still, with so many receivers ahead of him, the Bengals would have to make a tough decision to go light at another position to keep him.

Defensive end Chris Smith is also making his case to make the 53-man roster. Smith has looked good in training camp and had a sack and five quarterback hits by the fourth quarter. It would be hard to leave him off, too.

Rookie watch: Third-round pick Jordan Willis continued to impress, one week after his good play prompted Marvin Lewis to single him out. Willis showed great burst off the edge when lined up at right defensive end in the Bengals' base 4-3 defense. Although he couldn't get the right angle to sack quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he showed that it's going to be difficult for offensive linemen to consistently hold him back.

Bengals are short at safety: Williams was carted off the field with a right-elbow injury, leaving the Bengals down both of their starting safeties. Although George Iloka returned to practice last week, it's unknown how long Williams could be out. With Brandon Wilson still on the non-football injury list, the Bengals are down to two healthy safeties. Shaw could slide over from corner if needed.

O-line looks set: Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander doesn't want to say it yet, but the battle for starting right guard is over. Trey Hopkins' getting two consecutive starts over Andre Smith seals that. Smith was the second-team right tackle and played special teams.

On one play, when the team was lining up for a field goal, Smith was late getting to the field, so a timeout had to be burned. It looks like the starting lineup, barring injuries, will be Cedric Ogbuehi, Clint Boling, Russell Bodine, Hopkins and Jake Fisher.

What to do at kicker?: Jake Elliott didn't have a great practice last week, going 1-for-4, while Randy Bullock, who has been extremely consistent, was 4-for-4. But where it really matters is the games, and so far Bullock and Elliott are in a dead heat. Bullock was good from 26 and 47 yards, and Elliott was good from 32 and 39.