CINCINNATI -- Paul Guenther had enough.
When the Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator walked back in his team's locker room at halftime of a game it led by one point Saturday night, he said the first thing that came to mind -- hoping it might inspire better play from his group of second- and third-string defenders.
"I need to find 25 guys on defense," Guenther pleaded. "I need to find guys 19-25 right now that can help us out as a backup player."
It didn't work.
After a group that mostly included their first-team defense allowed just 86 total yards through the first two quarters, the Bengals' back ups allowed the New York Jets to gain 257 yards in a second half that propelled Gang Green to a 25-17 Week 2 preseason win.
That second-half play belied a deeper problem for the Bengals as a whole. It showed just how vast the gap between their starting units and last-team units really was. The issue wasn't only on defense. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wasn't very happy with his back-end depth, either, after a pair of fumbles and an interception completely overshadowed starting quarterback Andy Dalton's impressive 8-for-8, 144-yard, one-touchdown passing performance. As fluid as his starting offense was, his backup groups were nowhere near as fluid.
"We're at home, we're in front of our crowd and all of a sudden we're like we hadn't played after the 1s went out," Jackson said. "It was like nobody practiced. So that was disappointing. That was very disappointing. It's against a good defense, and yeah, they left their guys out there, but so what? That's the National Football League. You've got to rise up and make plays."
New York's first-team offense and defense stayed on the field a couple series after the Bengals removed their starters.
Many of the players who got into the game late on both sides of the ball Saturday were coming in or rotating back in for others who had been hurt. Rookies Darqueze Dennard, Jeremy Hill and James Wright were among those who had injuries and didn't return. Second-year players on the bubble Rex Burkhead and J.K. Schaffer appeared to have serious injuries. So did recently added backup quarterback Tyler Wilson.
Inccensed with the way his reserves played, Guenther said he didn't find defensive players 19-25 Saturday night.
"If there's some guys around here that think they've made the team, they're going to be shocked when this thing gets done, if they keep playing like they're playing now," he said.
Those comments echoed concerns head coach Marvin Lewis addressed in his post-game news conference. Depth has for so long been a hallmark of this franchise. In the last four years in particular, the Bengals have signed and drafted young talent and raised it to the point that it has become the nucleus of what's been a successful team. Cincinnati's three straight playoff appearances have largely been a testament to how good the players have been, and how we'll they have adapted to coaching.
"I realize it is a lot of young guys, but the development of this team has been because of developing depth," Lewis said. "We have to realize we are going to have players getting injured during the season and guys have to respond and be able to step up, and the standard of play cannot get lowered."