Cincinnati's defense needs to step up this year with the team facing a young and new offense. This isn't new information we're presenting, especially something evident on video reviews. You saw it on the first go-around Sunday night against the New York Jets. There will be times when the defense does give up yards and you're thinking, "oh no, this isn't good." With 13:21 left in the first quarter, The New York Jets started their first drive of the game on Cincinnati's 49-yard line after a three-and-out by Cincinnati's offense. A scenario we're expecting with some frequency.
Single-back formation with Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress on the right. The Bengals four-man rush was largely ineffectual while Manny Lawson, Thomas Howard and Rey Maualuga covered the underneath zone. Burress found a massive gap in the zone and hauled in the 20-yard pass; Burress' first reception since the bullet was removed from his leg. Awesome.
And as much as a 20-yard reception might dampen spirits, this defense strengthened tied things down. On first-and-ten from the Bengals 29-yard line, the Jets line up with single-back formation and three wide receivers. Bengals counter with a fifth defensive back in Jonathan Wade. Quarterback Mark Sanchez hands off to LaDainian Tomlinson with the point of attack on the left. Geno Atkins is doubled down by the right guard Vladimir Ducasse (#62) and tackle Wayne Hunter (#78) while Domata Peko establishes control over the left guard Matt Slauson (#68), who finally receives help from center Nick Mangold (#74) that sealed the inside rushing lane. Robert Geathers, away from the play, easily fights off a Dustin Keller block and pursues down the line of scrimmage, wrapping Tomlinson after a four-yard gain.
On second-and-six from the Bengals 25-yard line, Tomlinson motions out into the left slot creating a five-wide situation with Thomas Howard covering the running back. Geno Atkins collides with Mangold after the snap, quickly spins off the block that brings him within a yard of Sanchez. By this point the quarterback was already into his throwing motion targeting Burress on a quick slant from the left. Leon Hall recognized the route and broke up the pass, nearly picking it off.
Cincinnati's defense threatens to bring six with Sanchez in shotgun on third-and-six, directing two receivers on both sides of the offensive line at Cincinnati's 25-yard line. The Bengals bring four, with Thomas Howard and Rey Maualuga drifting into their respective underneath zone coverages while Geno Atkins shadows Tomlinson out of the backfield. Honestly the damage may have been done during Sanchez's presnap reads, believing that more rushers were coming than the Jets could account for. The pass intended for Keller's vertical route was thrown too quickly, and perhaps the result of a miscommunication. Keller kept running while the thrown pass skipped two yards behind the tight end.
Though the 20-yard reception to Burress, the Jets offense would leave the field witnessing place kicking Nick Folk sending his 43-yard attempt wide right.