ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 16: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons pulls in this reception against Nate Clements #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Georgia Dome on August 16, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Bengals defense made a great overall showing in their preseason opener against the Jets. While the run defense remained the strong point on Thursday night against the Falcons, the pass defense just outright struggled. The easy excuse for the lack of performance in this area can be attributed to injuries to some of the more athletic cornerbacks in Jason Allen, Adam Jones, Shaun Prater, and first round pick, Dre Kirkpatrick. Another excuse could be that the team simply hasn't invested enough in young talent in the position since losing some of their more talented players in the group.
Josh Kirkendall noted that the team was going to tested in weeks two and three in the preseason against the vaunted offenses of the Falcons and the Packers and he was right. I noted that the group taking the tests against these teams appear to be put together by bandages and glue. The Falcons' offense proved that point on Thursday.
Four of Atlanta's quarterbacks played in the game on Thursday. They combined to finish 41 for 57, 406 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. In case you were curious that it was only the scrub backups who had their way with the defense, that wasn't the case, Matt Ryan was had 18 of those completions with 174 yards and a touchdown in less than a half of work. In short, he carved the Bengals defense like a turkey at Thanksgiving.
Aside from Ryan's performance, the Bengals' reserves made a star out of third-string quarterback, Dominique Davis. He had 121 of the total 406 passing yards, along with a passing touchdown and 21 rushing yards. Davis' night was really just part of a continuing trend.
The troubling trend of the Bengals not being able to cover a tight end also continued (when, in recent memory, have they been able to do this?) in Thursday night with Tony Gonzalez, LaMark Brown, Michael Palmer and former Bengal Chase Coffman combining for a big night. All four combined for ten catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. It's not exactly a dominant performance by four players, but they made clutch catches and were largely uncontested throughout the night.
The wide receivers ran rampant throughout Thursday night, much like we expected. Roddy White and Julio Jones had their way against much smaller corners and carved up the defense when they didn't have pressure. The most worrisome aspect? The Bengals completely shut down the Falcons' rushing attack, forcing them to be one-dimensional and they still were able to have their way against Cincinnati's defense.
It would seem that the three corners who sat out injured (Allen, Jones, Kirkpatrick) would have been the three best players to remedy this situation. Allen is a swing guy who can and has played corner and safety. He could have helped the issue of not being able to cover a tight end. A long, fast, athletic corner like Kirkpatrick would have been a good matchup against either White and Jones, while Adam Jones can run with most anybody when fully healthy.
Both Leon Hall and Terence Newman had rough nights, with Nate Clements seeming to get limited action. The Bengals will have no problem stooping the run this year. But, with the NFL becoming a "passing league", they will need to be able to defend against the pass, especially after they've made a team one-dimensional as they did last night.