We were wondering during Thursday Night's preseason game how the Bengals running back roster would look kickoff weekend. Curnutte believes the Bengals will dump Rudi Johnson and keep Chris Perry, Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey on the roster, placing James Johnson on the practice squad after his performance against the Colts.
James Johnson's ran eight times for 54 yards against the Colts with a 42-yard play midway through the fourth quarter. Without that 42-yard run, Johnson rushes seven times for 12 yards. DeDe Dorsey had a nice night rushing for 4.2 yards-per-carry (38 yards, nine attempts), including a six-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Kenny Watson had the worst night among running backs (well, other than Rudi Johnson of course) with a 1.6 yards-per-carry average (10 yards, six rushes). In the game, the Bengals rushed for 171 yards on 38 attempts (4.5 average).
Ironically enough, Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the preseason out-rushing Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey.
The Bengals leading receivers this preseason were two guys not on the roster last season. Jerome Simpson caught the most passes (11) and recorded the most yards (157). Ben Utecht's 10 receptions and 108 yards receiving ranked second in each category. Glenn Holt is the only player to record more than one touchdown reception. In fact, he has two of the team's three total passing touchdowns with Utecht having the other.
Domata Peko is the only defensive lineman with more than one sack, with one-sack performances coming from Robert Geathers, Michael Myers, Jason Shirley, and Angelo Craig. Darryl Blackstock (2), Keith Rivers, Kyries Herbert, and Dexter Jackson also recorded sacks.
The preseason question of finding that number three receiver was answered, by signing Chris Henry. However suspended through the first four games, it would appear that Simpson has the edge at that spot; but Chatman could find himself there based on whether the Bengals feel confident that Simpson knows the playbook.
Kyle Larson punted a whopping 28 times (average seven-per-game) with a pedestrian 41.9 average.
Even I was pleased with the performance of Ahmad Brooks. But I don't think that the final preseason game against a team that played few, if any, of their starters is that much of a reason to keep him. I still think he's on the chopping block, and I think that if Brooks was good enough, that he wouldn't have fallen so far, so quickly, on the depth chart and been mediocre in the other preseason games. Then again, the Bengals coaching staff loves projects with players that have potential (see Eric Henderson and Stacy Andrews -- who actually worked out).
Are people actually considering Fitzpatrick the better starting quarterback in Cincinnati?
I really enjoyed Fitzpatrick's performance this preseason. He had the best quarterback play, recording a 104.2 passer rating, no picks and two scores. Along with his 218 yards passing (which is second, behind Jeff Rowe's 228), Fitzpatrick added 79 yards rushing (scrambling). However, we don't need is a scrambling quarterback. What we need is our two Pro Bowl wide receivers back without protection breakdowns that force our quarterbacks to scramble. All of which, I believe, will return by kickoff weekend.
Along with Keith Rivers, I think Corey Lynch is one of the most impressive defensive rookies. Even though Pat Sims didn't record those key numbers (which is normal for a defensive tackle), I liked his motor with his noticeable intensity. With Shirley coming on against the Colts, I think the Bengals are close to having a solid defensive tackle rotation. Given more experience with the rookies, and the noticeable improvement with Domata Peko, there's a lot to look forward to this group. Once John Thornton leaves after this season, the Bengals could either draft another defensive tackle in the 2009 NFL Draft, or develop Antwon Burton with the practice squad this season.
Secondary-wise, I think this unit is much better than last season -- or the year before that, or the year before that. Johnathan Joseph was an aggressive hitter during the preseason, coming up to the line of scrimmage when the opposing team rushed to his side. He played the island role, along with Leon Hall, as best as we could expect of them. While big-body wide receivers will generally always have their way with most NFL cornerbacks, I didn't think to myself that our young cornerbacks will be problematic.
My biggest concern wasn't the secondary against the rush, nor the play of our starting cornerbacks. It was our safeties against the pass, allowing the opposing wide receiver to stream past them. This didn't happen against the Colts as much as it did in the first preseason games. Still, Corey Lynch and Marvin White are young enough to learn from it and become better as the season wears on. Not to mention Chinedum Ndukwe missed the preseason.
I do believe, however, that our secondary is as deep as it has ever been during the Marvin Lewis era.
Like many of you, I just don't know what to expect this season. On one hand, this team is talented enough among their starters; everyone returns, the protection schemes improve and the rushing attack is actually meaningful. On the other hand, we could the regular season become an extension of the preseason becoming the worst season during the Marvin Lewis era. Either way, the critical aspect for success on this team will be the offense. An improved defense will be icing on the cake, that could find themselves in the role to win games if the offense sputters.
In the end, your guess is as good as mine.