Cincinnati's effort against the Denver Broncos in the first half was much improved, compared to their relatively sleep-walk against the Dallas Cowboys last week. Protection was much improved, allowing Carson Palmer to complete 12 of 15 passes for 105 yards. And much of that yardage came with two rookies that the Bengals expect big things from. Between Jordan Shipley and Jermaine Gresham, the rookies recorded six receptions for 76 yards receiving. While Gresham even motioned into the slot, Jordan Shipley truly gives the impression that the team has found their T.J. Houshmandzadeh replacement.
Early in the second quarter during the Bengals third drive, after Reggie Stephens was called for a holding, Shipley lined up on the left. Jermaine Gresham cleared out the zone running upfield while Shipley crossed underneath, picking up 8 yards on the pass. On the next play, Shipley ran up five yards, faked out and crossed in, much like Houshmandzadeh did a billion times in Cincinnati.
Save for two huge runs by Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott that combined for 69 yards on two plays, the running backs have a combined 14 rush attempts for only 24 yards rushing. Much of the reason is that the offensive line struggled mostly on linebacker crashing. An injury suffered by Kyle Cook forced rookie Reggie Stephens to take a majority of the second quarter snaps, looking relatively successful in the role. Terrell Owens dropped a pass that would have converted a third-and-11 and the team's defense was called for multiple flags that sustained drives.
All in all, comparatively speaking, the Bengals offense looked miles ahead of where they were last week. The defense is playing a bit soft in coverages and quite frankly, the defensive line was dominated at the point of attack during rushing downs. Oh, and J.T. O'Sullivan, who hasn't completed any of his four pass attempts, is being outplayed by Brady Quinn.