Game Review – Bengals v. Vikings
Have to love the first preseason game of the year, nothing like watching a bunch of fourth- and fifth-teamers battling for time down the stretch. That said, I saw some things I liked and some things I didn’t like in the preseason opener, so let’s get to it. I’ll start with the bad.
What I Didn’t Like
Lack of scoring – The Bengals held the ball for a majority of the first quarter, but came away with no points. Dalton, Green, Hill, and Bernard marched the ball downfield easily in the first possession, but Mike Nugent pushed the ball wide on his field goal attempt after the drive stalled. Nugent hadn’t missed a field goal all training camp and looked like he was going to hit the ground running, then he edged his first kick about a foot too far right.
Following this possession, the offense went on a hellacious 22-play drive from inside their own 10. Yet again, they came up empty as the Vikings defense knifed past Bengals tackles Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi and stonewalled Cedric Peerman in the backfield on fourth and goal from the one. Short-yardage situations on the opponent’s goal line have to result in points of some sort. These two young studs have to step up and make sure doesn’t happen – they were first- and second-round draft picks for a reason and their “red shirt” year is over.
Dominating possession and coming up empty cannot happen once the regular season starts. The good news is, it’s the preseason and there is time to work on these situations.
Chykie Brown – On a team that needs quality backups in the defensive backfield, Brown got nailed with an illegal contact penalty and still gave up a 49-yard touchdown. He needs to be a solid, dependable backup to Jones, Kirkpatrick, and Dennard – however, he didn’t look the part on that play. Furthermore, this defense can’t afford to give up big plays, especially with some of the explosive offenses they will face (namely, Pittsburgh).
Running Game – I’d really like to see more explosiveness from the running game. The game started well; but, then we had the Bernard slip in the backfield and Peerman getting nailed behind the line of scrimmage. I think this can be attributed to the aforementioned struggles on the offensive line. The run game is an absolute necessity to set up the passing game, it has to be a threat. While the run game struggled at times, it was good at times as well – leading me to the positive.
What I Liked
Offense – The first series with Andy Dalton was extremely encouraging, he looked efficient – going 4-of-5 passing and spreading the ball around the field. A.J. Green looked like his same old Pro-Bowl self. Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard helped move the ball as well (although I want to see that home-run threat). All of these facets led to the offense absolutely dominating time of possession, which will help keep the defense fresh when the regular season grind kicks in.
Ken Zampese – In my season preview for the Bengals I noted that I wanted to see how Ken Zampese would use the weapons he’s been given – and I liked what I saw last night. He moved players around and found them favorable matchups and I liked what I saw. Zampese definitely likes that mid-range (8-15 yard) pass, using it as an extension of the running game. I like seeing this, it will definitely open up the run game and deeper passes as the season begins.
Defensive Pressure – That first possession, I loved it. Yes, Geno Atkins got stiff-armed by Bridgewater – but he made up for it on the next play. That pressure he and the defensive ends provided is going to be paramount to having a successful season. Speaking of the ends, welcome back Michael Johnson. Yes, it was the first preseason game – but he went around Andre Smith like he was standing still. You can say “it’s Andre Smith,” but he gave us many good seasons and he is a good starting tackle in the NFL. Johnson toasted him and was in Bridgewater’s lap almost as soon as he got the ball.
The Young Wide Receivers – Tyler Boyd made a wonderful over-the-shoulder catch to set up a touchdown, Cody Core had three catches for 33 yards, and then you have Alex Erickson. What did he do? Oh, just pulled in a three-yard TD reception on a beautifully fun quick out pattern on the goal line. Then, you have the punt return. Words can’t describe how pretty that punt return was – ducking defenders, running through tackles, then hitting the sidelines for an 80-yard beaut. So good. He’s got a chance to make an impact.
Overall, a solid first game – wins and losses don’t matter. As a whole, I liked what I saw. Top that with no major injuries and you have the recipe for a good preseason opener. Let’s look for progress this Thursday when our cats head up the highway to battle the cats from Detroit. The second and third preseason games are when we will see more starters, so let’s see if the Bengals can smooth out some of the rough edges and give us a good idea of what to expect when the games start counting