Well, it wasn’t quite what we were looking for from the Bengals, even if it was only the first preseason game. The 16-7 loss did nothing to dispense concerns regarding the areas the team needs to improve upon from 2009. The passing offense continued to struggle, and the offensive line had difficulty containing the Cowboy pass rush. The team continued to show a lack of discipline in committing 12 penalties, including killers that negated a fumble recovery on defense and a couple of big gains on offense.
However, there were some bright spots. The defense held up very well against the powerful Dallas offense, and there were some good returns in the kicking game.
The team has a lot to work on as they move on to their next preseason tilt Sunday versus Denver. Here’s a look at each of the points of interest I wrote about prior to the game, and the results we saw last night:
- Carson Palmer’s Accuracy: Palmer played in only two series, but finished just 2-of-5 for a meager 18 yards. Both completions went to his shiny new toy, Terrell Owens. Palmer’s attempts, when not pressured, were generally on-target, but he found himself under a lot of pressure every time he dropped back.
- Batman & Robin Premiere: Palmer went to these two with all five of his attempts. Unfortunately, he only completed two. While Gotham City (or Cincinnati) shouldn’t throw a parade for these guys yet, with only two offensive series’ together, it’s tough to get too high or too low on these caped crusaders.
- Offensive Line Play: Troubling to say the least. Whether it was the first-teamers with Carson Palmer, or the back-ups with J.T. O’Sullivan and Jordan Palmer, the protection was suspect all game. The team can certainly run block, but OL coach Paul Alexander has a lot of work to do if the passing game is going to improve.
- Rookie Receivers: Not much happened with these guys last night. First-round TE Jermaine Gresham was blanked, though he was missed on one particularly bad throw when he was open. Third-rounder Jordan Shipley finished with 2 catches for 17 yards, but also had a few mistakes. Sixth-rounder Dez Briscoe got one catch for 11 yards in the second half.
- Michael Johnson: Linebacker. This was one of the more pleasant sights last night. Johnson’s move to linebacker has so far proven to be a good one. Johnson was very effective against mostly first-teamers in the first half, and made plays throughout his time on the field. Johnson finished with 2 sacks and 3 tackles, but also provided consistent pressure on Dallas quarterbacks. He forced Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee into bad throws on the run. Look for Johnson to have a big impact in Mike Zimmer’s defense this year.
- Adam Jones: The man formerly known as “Pacman” started at corner with Johnathan Joseph down to rest injuries. Jones was solid in coverage against the much taller Cowboy receivers, and did a good job on kick returns. Jones had a 9-yard punt return and a 31-yard kick-off return.
- Long-snapper: Former UC Bearcat Mike Windt and incumbent Clark Harris alternated snaps, with neither player creating any distance. Both had generally good, fast and accurate snaps.
- Kicker: Mike Nugent was down due to injury, and his competition, Dave Rayner, didn’t get many opportunities, so this one is essentially a push. Rayner nailed his only scoring attempt, an extra point, and both of his kick-offs made it into the end zone (something Shayne Graham did rarely). One of the two kick-offs was a touchback.
- Cowboy re-unions: The former Cowboys on the Bengals’ roster clearly enjoyed their reunions with former teammates. Owens will clearly get some publicity this week for lamenting the fact he’s no longer with them.
- Matt Jones versus Jerome Simpson: Round one goes to Jones. The former first-round pick of the Jaguars doesn’t look particularly fast or agile out there, but he made some nice catches, and showed to be difficult to tackle in the open field. Jones finished leading the team with 3 catches for 42 yards. Simpson, despite all his athleticism, looked out-of-control and undisciplined. He wasn’t blessed with a lot of good balls to catch, but he didn’t do himself any favors with is 2 catches for 19 yards.
- Jordan Palmer vs. J.T. O’Sullivan: The O’Sullivan experiment is not working. In my unscientific opinion, the well-traveled journeyman looked like he had no idea what he was doing, showed a confidence problem and wasn’t accurate with his passes, even when he had ample time to throw. The younger Palmer had two ugly interceptions, but nevertheless showed a lot more poise and inner confidence. The numbers are in Palmer’s favor as well. O’Sullivan finished with an ugly 4 for 11 for 33 yards and one interception. Palmer finished 10 for 20 for 102 yards and a touchdown pass to go with 2 picks. Neither guy will make us forget Carson, or stop praying that he stays healthy, but the younger Palmer is clearly the better option at this point as primary back-up.
So the team had 3 specific goals as I mentioned prior to the game:
- Don’t lose anyone to injuries—particularly starters
- Get some evaluation tape—particularly back-ups.
- See Number 1.
Number 2 was going to happen regardless, but number one is yet to be determined. Defensive starters Antwan Odom (eye) and Chris Crocker (ankle) both went down, but early reports are they will be fine. Third-down back Brian Leonard, however, looks to have a serious foot injury. Test results back in Cincinnati are pending, but if Leonard will miss significant time, it will be a huge blow to the struggling offense.
Other bright spots for the Bengals:
- Rookie DT Geno Atkins was active and disruptive on defense, routinely breaking double-teams and getting into the offensive back field. Atkins finished leading the defense with 6 total tackles and a sack.
- Jordan Shipley’s 63-yard punt return to the Dallas 2-yard line set up the team’s only offensive score, and showed that his return skills to translate to the next level. Shipley found a nice crease in the coverage, broke several tackles, and looked quick.
- Chase Coffman had a nice 21-yard catch in traffic on fourth-and-long. Getting Coffman into the offense should be a priority for offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.
Next week, we’ll need to see some more improvement from the first team offense, particularly from the line and the pass receivers. On defense, more pass rush is still a high priority.