Bengals preseason observations

Frank Victores/US Presswire

St. Louis running back Samkon Gado scored one of two touchdowns Thursday night, surprising the Bengals defense.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Cincinnati Bengals lost to the St. Louis Rams, 24-21, in their third preseason game Thursday night.

Here are some observations:

I was surprised Cincinnati's first-team defense gave up two first-quarter touchdowns against an offense that's expected to be average at best in St. Louis. The first was an 11-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 16-yard run by Samkon Gado. St. Louis had a short field on second scoring drive. But Cincinnati failed to hold the Rams to a field goal, which is what elite defenses do. If the Bengals want to be a top 10 defense this year, which is their goal, they are going to have to handle both of these situations better in the regular season.

Bengals receiver Chris Henry continued his impressive preseason. Henry scored for the third straight preseason game after quarterback Jordan Palmer connected with Henry for a 54-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Henry had the best offseason of his career and is poised to help the Bengals this year as the No. 3 receiver.

Rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga is making a strong push for a starting job. After missing the preseason opener, he's been a stud the past two weeks. Against St. Louis he led the Bengals with eight tackles. Maualuga has already established himself as a feared hitter in training camp, and he fits right in with the AFC North division.

Former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller did well Thursday night. He got the start for St. Louis and finished 14 for 20 for 96 yards and a touchdown. He threw a lot of safe passes but executed pretty well. Boller also rushed twice for 16 yards.

Rookie receiver Quan Cosby made his first big play of the preseason with a 49-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Cosby is on the bubble in a deep receiver corps of the Bengals. Stellar special teams play is probably the only way he avoids the practice squad.