Fantasy alert: Giovani Bernard can score in the red zone.
In the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-10 victory Thursday over the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason finale, Bernard finished off the Bengals' first drive with a 1-yard touchdown. It marked the third 1-yard touchdown for the 5-foot-9, 208-pound Bernard. While starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a touchdown machine (30 rushing touchdowns in the past three seasons), Bernard should get some chances to punch the ball in, if the preseason is any indication.
“To me, it’s all about determination and heart. How bad do you want that touchdown?" quarterback Andy Dalton said at halftime. "I really think anybody should be able to get 1 yard if you want it bad enough, no matter your size.”
Bernard showed toughness in the open field, too. After taking a dump-off pass from Josh Johnson, Bernard ran for 16 yards and delivered a hit on a Colts defensive back before going out of bounds. Bernard finished with 28 yards on five touches.
Overall, it was a crisp effort by the Bengals after a sloppy performance last week in Dallas. Cincinnati had one turnover (Cedric Peerman's fumble didn't lead to any points) and committed two penalties.
Here are my other thoughts on the final preseason game for the Bengals, who finished 3-1:
Dalton made a cameo appearance, leading the Bengals to a touchdown in his only drive of the night. He completed one pass for 18 yards, a short pass to Mohamed Sanu, who broke a tackle. Dalton's only other pass was an underthrown ball to receiver A.J. Green in the end zone, but Green drew a pass-interference penalty. The Bengals got the ball on the 1-yard line, where Bernard scored the game's first touchdown.
Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur was carted off the field in the first quarter with a right-shoulder injury. Lamur is one of the Bengals' top backups and plays in their nickel defense. If Lamur is lost for a significant amount of time, the player who could benefit the most is J.K. Schaffer, who had a mauling, third-down sack and an interception against the Colts.
Brandon Tate once again provided a spark on special teams. After scoring on a 75-yard punt return in his last preseason game, he set up the first touchdown with a 51-yard kickoff return. This latest big return happened because of great blocking by the Bengals, and Tate just had to hit the open lane.
It looks like John Conner will be the Bengals' starting fullback. He was the first fullback to play, and he was the lead blocker on Bernard's touchdown. Orson Charles, who has been battling Conner for the job, could still make the team because of his versatility. The Bengals may decide to keep Charles as the third fullback (behind Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert) and cut Alex Smith.
Backup quarterback Johnson still struggles with his accuracy, but he can make big plays with his feet. He led the Bengals in rushing in the first half with 38 yards on two scrambles. As far as his passing, he was 4-of-5 for 26 yards and one touchdown on his first two drives (both scoring drives). His touchdown pass, a 3-yard toss to Marvin Jones, was on the same fade route as the incompletion thrown by Dalton earlier in the game. For the rest of the first half, Johnson was 3-of-8 for 41 yards. John Skelton, the Bengals' other backup, was 6-of-10 for 99 yards, which probably won't be enough to leapfrog Johnson for the job.