DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks for a receiver during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
The Bad: the Bengals lost by two points. The Good: the questions that we had about the Bengals new quarterback seem to have been answered... and the answer seems to be good. The Bengals lost to the Broncos 24-22 in Denver on Sunday but, in the process, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton looked magnificent, especially in the second half, and wide receivers A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson gave us a look at what they have the potential to do.
On last night's post-game podcast, Dave brought up a good point: he asked if we were still waiting for the regular season to begin and somebody from the future walked up to us and told us that the Bengals would go 1-1 to start the season, would we be happy. Joe and I both answered yes.
Anyway, here are the seven things that stuck out to me during Sunday's game.
|Point One: Andy Dalton Looked Great|
In his second game of his NFL career, Dalton completed 27 of 41 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns. That gave him a passer rating of 107.0. When push came to shove on Sunday and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden started putting the game on Dalton's shoulders, largely abandoning the run, Dalton shined. He didn't look like a rookie at all, he looked like a seasoned veteran -- on and off the field. When he wasn't in the game, you could see him talking to his linemen and receivers on the sideline, pumping everybody up. Not only is that something that rookies might feel uncomfortable doing, it's also something Carson Palmer never did. Dalton has impressed the hell out of me so far and I for one, can't wait to see more on Sunday.
|Point Two: A.J. Green + Jerome Simpson = Potential to be Great|
A.J. Green's acrobatic physics-defying catch on the sideline showed why the Bengals selected him in the first round with the fourth overall pick. He had a huge game, catching 10 passes for 124 yards. Dalton also got Jerome Simpson involved. On four catches, Simpson racked up 136 yards, almost half of the yards he added up at the end of the 2010 season. Green and Simpson have the potential to be huge playmakers together. Even though Simpson is a little more of a boom-or-bust than Green, when they are both on their game, they can run circles around most secondaries.
|Point Three: Benson Needs to be Better on Short Yardage Situations|
To begin the game, the Bengals were put in three straight third-and-one situations and on all three, the Bengals ended up punting the ball. There is no excuse for that, especially against a Denver Broncos defense that couldn't stop the Raiders from running all over them in week one. Of course all the blame can't be put on Benson's shoulders -- the offensive line made the Broncos banged up defense look great -- but he has to be able to get just one yard. If the Bengals convert one of those third downs, they could have driven down the field and even if they didn't score a touchdown, a field goal would have won the game.
|Point Four: Jermaine Gresham Needs to be Involved Heavily in Every Game|
In the first game of the season against the Browns, tight end Jermaine Gresham led all receivers with six catches for 58 yards. Against the Broncos, Gresham had just two catches for eight yards. Gresham is a mismatch nightmare from hell for any defense. He's too big to be covered by cornerbacks and safeties and he's too fast to be covered by linebackers. There are only a select few defenders in the NFL that could cover Gresham one-on-one. Just when it seemed that the Bengals were learning how to use one of the most talented tight ends in the league, they turn around and pretty much forget he exists the next week. They need to have designed plays to get the ball in his hands and if they do have those plays already, they need to call them in every game. If they get Gresham consistently involved in every game, the offense will flourish.
|Point Five: Andre Caldwell Needs to Make the Most of This Opportunity|
Losing a receiver as talented and as reliable as Jordan Shipley is a big hit for this team. I'm a big Shipley fan and I believe that he could have a great career as a slot receiver. However, the Bengals are fortunate to have a receiver as talented as Andre Caldwell waiting in the wings. He can play all three receiver positions and he is extremely fast and athletic. This is a contract year for Caldwell and this is his chance to make a statement that the Bengals should re-sign him once the season is over. His future career in the NFL could depend on how he performs in the next 14 games.
|Point Six: Bernard Scott Still Isn't Getting Much of a Chance|
This is me officially giving up on the campaign to get Scott in the game more often. I love the idea of Benson and Scott in a two-back system where each running back gets a fairly similar amount of carries and each carves up the defense in their own way. However, it just seems that Bengals coaches are dead set on keeping Scott on the bench. In the first game he looked bad, carrying the ball four times for three yards, but in Sunday's game, Scott carried the ball twice for 10 yards. He looked better but he still only got two carries. I'm completely convinced now that Scott isn't going to find his way on the field very often unless Benson gets injured. It's a shame, but maybe there's something that we don't know about Scott.
|Extra Point: Rey Maualuga Has to be Better|
I was so excited that Maualuga was going to be the team's new middle linebacker. That's where he belongs. He was so good there in college and even though he was pretty good as an outside linebacker over the last two seasons, I just knew that Maualuga would explode and have a breakout year in 2011 in the middle. Against the Browns he looked pretty good but against Denver he looked just plain bad. On one play that comes to mind, he met Willis McGahee, the ball carrier just beyond the line of scrimmage and McGahee just ran Maualuga right over and continued on for about another four or five yards. Maualuga is five years younger than McGahee and has more than 30 pounds on him and there's no excuse to get run over like that. Maualuga may have the most to prove of any player on the team in the coming weeks. If he wants to prove to people that he shouldn't have been passed up in the first round of the 2009 draft he should get started because right now he looks like a second-round pick.