We know that quarterback Andy Dalton is a rookie, and there is going to be growing pains. We expected that. Even though the first two preseason games have been painful, resulting with the Bengals being outscored 61-10, the development process is going to take time. And in truth Sunday night's game wasn't ideal. Second preseason game of his young NFL career, Dalton had to deal with a constant rainstorm that saturated the football. Is that an excuse, no. Is this Dalton's second career NFL game, in the middle of a rainstorm where his receivers struggled to get a hand on the ball? Yes. Those are just the facts from Sunday night. And A.J. Green admits that he should have caught more than one of five passes targeted to him.
“I should have had all of them. I just have to make the play,” Green said. “It was raining but it’s my job to catch the ball. Some of the balls that I dropped were key balls like third down and long that I should have had.”
If we exclude a pair of knees taken to end the first half against the New York Jets, quarterback Andy Dalton has led 11 offensive possessions this preseason which has resulted in three interceptions, five punts (three of which were three-and-out), a missed field goal, a converted field goal and a touchdown. Just under half (5) of Dalton's 11 possessions have gained 10 yards or more and twice has the offense sustained a drive of 10 plays or more. Though Cincinnati didn't feature the first-team rushing offense against the New York Jets much as the passing offense; perhaps to get the team some work in the passing game during game conditions. That's a trend we shouldn't expect when these games are on the line and Cedric Benson becomes a greater part of this offense.
These are the growing pains that we expected. We've recycled the same offseason arguments and we'll do it again. A rookie quarterback is taking over as the team's starting quarterback for a suddenly retiring Carson Palmer. A rookie wide receiver is taking over for a traded Chad Ochocinco. Jay Gruden, who is himself a rookie offensive coordinator, is taking over for the fired Bob Bratkowski. A fourth-year receiver with only 21 career receptions under his belt, is starting opposite of the rookie starting wide receiver. We expected the offense to struggle. Through two preseason games we've seen this offense struggle. Nothing has changed.
Sure you may have hoped for the perverbial surprise. Why not? If you're expecting disaster, why not hope for the unexpected surprise. Keeps you interested, tuned in. But if your hope for surprise takes precidence over your expectation that this offense will face a long season of growing pains, then when they do play badly, you'll suddenly feel disappointed. Perhaps the best course of action is to keep encouraging a young offense, led by a rookie quarterback. That is if you're up for encouaging a team expected to post double-digit losses and that is if you can put aside the antogonist Mike Brown philosophy for a little while.
This offense will struggle and if you account for the first team defense only, the Bengals only dealt with a three point deficit. We've said all offseason that the offense will struggle, that the defense will have to pick it up after a disappointing 2010 season. This season was always meant to build up for 2012 -- no matter what Marvin Lewis argues. Seeing it struggle doesn't change anything. This is exactly what we expected. After all, this is a rookie quarterback who said after the game as he's learning the NFL on the run:
"I did (get better). I felt I got a better feeling of what was going on and made sure I had the right grip on the ball to put the ball in the right spot."
It's still about growth. Nothing has changed.