Any Carolina Panthers fan knows too well what happens to the perception of a team after a tough year. Many in the media seemed to completely forget that this team has plenty of talent. The Bengals must be in a similar situation. Even leading up to this week I've been operating under the assumption that this game would be... well... easier. Any team that picks near the top of the draft board is going to have problems that need fixing. However, the Bengals still have a lot of talent intact.
I've watched the preseason matchups for the first two games. Much has been said about the performance of rookie #14 QB Andy Dalton. I'll be trying to highlight which receivers Dalton seems to have good chemistry with and if that's dictated by game situation.
I know a lot of Carolina fans wanted AJ Green leading up to the draft. How is the receiver adjusting to the Bengals offense?
All of this and more... after the jump
Passing The Ball
Last week the Bengals were defeated by the Jets 27-7. The "lowlights" of a spectacularly disastrous start included two interceptions and a fumble that was, fortunately for the Bengals, bobbled and kicked for only a loss of 18 yards. That was all just within the first 10 offensive plays the Bengals called. There is some good news for the Bengals, though. After the rough start, rookie QB Andy Dalton seemed to settle down and lead his offense on an 11 play, 71 yard drive for a touchdown. This drive included four first downs converted through the air. It is worth contrasting this accomplishment with how our QBs have performed on 3rd down so far this season (not very well).
|11||pass||3rd||10||Scaife||12||good throw on the run|
Did I mention that only 2 yards of that drive were on the ground? I'm not saying he was channeling his inner-Manning but for a rookie this is a very encouraging drive. This was accomplished against a talented Jets defense. I think we'll have our opportunities to make Dalton look bad, but don't be surprised if he makes some good plays. The last pass to Shipley on 3rd and 6 near the endzone was particularly impressive. Dalton looked like he belonged as he stepped into the blitz and threw a dart right on the money to Shipley.
#11 WR Jordan Shipley was targeted four times with three receptions. All routes were short underneath routes that gained 4, 5 and 10 yards. Expect Shipley to be targeted often and mostly on 2nd down to help set up a 3rd and manageable situation.
Rookie #18 WR AJ Green registers his only catch of the game during the TD drive after sidestepping "Revis Island" and running to the marker for a first down. Green was surprisingly the most targeted receiver with 5 total targets. Unfortunatley, more than one incomplete pass was the direct result of the ball not being placed better by the QB (one of them Green almost caught anyway - great effort). However, there was one play where the pair of rookies were simply not on the same page as Dalton was expecting a different route run by the receiver.
#87 WR Andre Caldwell received three targets, all of which were intermediate to deep throws. Had one good catch to convert a third down later in the first half. Unfortunately, he never had a chance on his other two targets as he was severely overthrown (one turning into an easy INT). Look for #87 on 3rd and long as he'll likely be running a deep route looking for the big play, or just clearing out space for the underneath throw.
#89 WR Jerome Simpson was targeted three times but was unable to haul in any for a completion. One was dropped - right through the hands. On another target, he caught a well thrown ball by QB Dalton but was unable to get both feet in bounds.
Running The Ball
This is a line that knows how to run block. Almost all of their runs feature a zone blocking scheme that we're all so familiar with after former OC Jeff Davidson implemented the system here. You can identify this by watching the offensive line on a running play. If they are all headed in the same direction, it's a zone blocking running play. If you see one of the guards step back and move across the grain, that's an angle blocking play (they mixed in one or two of these against the Jets).
#32 RB Benson has good vision and can find a seam and pick up tough yards on the ground. This game wasn't the clearest indication of the Bengals ability to run the football (similar to the Panthers game last week vs Miami). RB Benson left the game after managing a paltry 1.86 yards per carry. #40 RB Brian Leonard managed a bit better picking up 3.2 yards per carry including a nice 11 yard run down the sideline and a 1 yard TD plunge. In general, the Bengals employ a balanced rushing attack and are not shy running out of any formation with regularity. Of the 13 first half runs, six included a fullback on the play (21 or 22 personnel) while most others were run out of 2-3 WR sets (11 and 12 personnel).
It'll be interesting to see what happens on 3rd down. In the previous game, the only run that was called on 3rd down was on 3rd and 27. Otherwise, the Bengals were passing the ball more than they'd like to, I imagine. This would be a good opportunity to have a statement game and really show they're still committed to the run against our questionable defensive line. Conversely it'll be a good test for our young players along the defensive interior.
This is an important game for both teams and surely the story of the night will revolve around the pair of starting rookie QBs. Let's hope for a good game with no injuries!