Jermaine Gresham had a nice catch to open the series for Cincinnati and exploded into a Falcons’ rookie cornerback by the sideline to gain an extra few yards. If you caught the first episode of “Hard Knocks” last week, it was on par with the Oklahoma Drill faceoff between him and Geno Atkins.
However, there wasn’t much else noteworthy in the opening series by the Bengals’ offense. Many of the plays were off-tackle runs by BenJarvus Green Ellis who did have a few good runs, but was mainly stuffed at the line. The second drive of the game ended on a failed pass from Dalton on third and long.
Dalton did okay at spreading the ball around and working with the double TE set, connecting with Gresham on two plays and Eifert on one. Unfortunately, his playing time was too short and with his go-to receiver A.J Green injured, Dalton never got into a groove.
The big plus on the day that head coach Marvin Lewis talked about was not turning the ball over. The team finished with no turnovers on offense, and Brandon Ghee got things going in the Bengals’ direction with an interception.
“I think the thing I felt good about the most is we took care of the football. The quarterbacks did a good job handling the situations,” coach Lewis told reporters . “It was a good step in the process. We had a lot of young guys playing out there and got them in good situations.”
The big standout for Cincinnati was backup quarterback Josh Johnson. Johnson showed his asset as a backup quarterback with his legs and his arm, even though he had a few shaky passes on short downs. Johnson had two quarterback runs for 57 yards, one for 43 yards on a broken play in the second quarter to keep the Bengals’ drive alive that brought them to the 22 yard line, allowing for a tying field goal.
The next drive, Johnson spread the ball around much more effectively on a 6-play 69-yard drive that ended in a Bengals’ touchdown. Johnson threw a 22-yard bullet to Brandon Tate in the endzone that split Falcon’s Robert McClain and Charles Mitchell to put Cincinnati up 10-3.
Overall, Johnson led the team to two touchdowns and two field goals while picking up 164 yards passing and running during his six series of play.
Including Johnson, it was a game of backups with former Ohio State standout Dane Sanzenbacher making roster cuts more cloudy with two receptions for a team high 59 yards and a touchdown. Sanzenbacher also added a 71-yard punt return to his preseason résumé that was a Bengals’ first in four seasons.
In his third season in the NFL, Sanzenbacher has seen little playing time since playing 16 games with the Bears in 2011. With the Bengals’ Andrew Hawkins possibly going on IR, Sanzenbacher could make an argument for backup at receiver or returner on special teams.
Backup middle linebacker J.K. Schaffer, originally an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, made a strong case for making the team with a team high 6.0 tackles. Schaffer also helped set up the 71-yard punt return by Sanzenbacher with a block on special teams.
Both Schaffer and Sanzenbacher are making things really muddled in two competitive areas on the team when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53. Meanwhile, Josh Johnson has made a strong case at the backup quarterback position. I was originally very concerned what would happen to the team if Dalton were to get injured during the season. While I don’t think Johnson is going to take the NFL by storm, if Dalton were to miss a few weeks with injury, Johnson could do more than just be a warm body on the field, the team could actually excel.
Penalties for the Bengals seemed to come on an assembly line in the first half. Unfortunately, a portion of those were from starting Center Kyle Cook who had two drive-killing penalties, a false start and illegal use of hands. Cook, who was injured for a majority of last season, didn’t look sharp in his few series of play.
Cook doesn’t have to worry about his starting spot being taken any time soon since back up Trevor Robinson committed his own false start on his first snap.
The offensive line looked anything but good in its first preseason game, but it is somewhat to be expected. However, while missing blocking assignments and getting beat happens even in the regular season, the penalties are always hard to accept since it’s giving the other team a freebie.
The first team unit as whole wasn’t spectacular at anything, but, in the brief time they were on the field, they didn’t fall apart either. It was the first preseason game and the only people who should be playing all out are the long shots looking for a roster spot and backups looking for a starting role. The first team will come around by the end of the preseason
Anyone listening to the broadcasters on tv notice Jon Gruden? Cincinnati Enquirers Paul Daugherty touched on Gruden’s commentary in his column, and it was one of the few times I’ve ever agreed with him.
Almost every down was a football 101 on fundamentals about player position, slot blitzes, zone blitzes, etc. And almost all of them were “amazing” according to Gruden.
This is the Monday Night Football broadcast team that NFL aficionados will have to hear every week, and I don’t know about you, but I hate when people talk hyperbole-everything. This is, as Daugherty put it “perma-superlatives”, with every play being “great”, “fantastic”, “brilliant”, etc. The way Gruden was commentating, you’d think that no NFL player could make a mistake and every play was majestic – please, give me what that guy is having.
The moment I hit the mute button was when he said he didn’t understand why Bengals’ Rey Maualuga received all the criticism last year. That Maualuga was a great player who played almost every down and did so many things well.
Ok, I’ll give him durability and Maualuga did do many things right, but he was also dreadful on passing plays and open field tackling – see Arian Foster during 2012 playoff game. “Great”, should be reserved for the Ray Lewis’, Lawrence Taylor’s, and Dick Butkus’. Rey Maualuga is a decent player, but he has a long way to go to be considered “great”. Agree?
The best quote post-game was from Josh Johnson who pretty much reiterated what I said about the preseason being about backups and how, in the NFL, there may be no tomorrow.
“You have to show everything. That’s what it’s about when you are in a position where you are not a starter,” Johnson said. “When you are a backup in this league, preseason is like your season. You have to go out there and perform well at every chance that you get to show you are progressing as a player.”