Last week, I half-witted my way through a post where I discussed that the Bengals pass defense doesn't look promising for the 2012 regular season. I based that theory on the team's first two performances of the preseason--particularly from last Thursday's showing against the Falcons. The truth is that even the biggest Bengals "homers" should admit that the team isn't perfect and there are holes on the roster as it currently stands.
Another trouble spot for the team has become apparent through the first two preseason games and it's on the other side of the football. The team had some mighty struggles in the run game in 2011 and, even though the team attempted to make improvements to their roster to remedy the problems, they have appeared to carry over into 2012.
Last week against the Jets, new starting running back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis only gained 22 yards at a 3.1 yards per carry average. Third-string running back, Cedric Peerman led the team in yards and no one other than him was impressive in the game. One could argue that that is more because of the Jets' perennially strong defense and not so much a testament to the Bengals offensive woes. New starting guard Travelle Wharton was lost for the season on the team's first offensive possession. I chronicled the team's struggles in the game in one of my post game observation pieces.
While the Bengals passing offense improved quite a bit in the second game, the rushing offense did not. It didn't help that Green-Ellis was out of the game with a sore foot, as was his backup Bernard Scott, who has been out all preseason (and will continue to be) with a hand injury. Third down specialist got the start, with Peerman and others getting a lot of extra work.
Leonard and Peerman combined for 9 rushes for ten yards and two fumbles--one lost. The biggest run of the night by a running back was a seven-yarder by Leonard on which he lost the fumble. The most telling stat? The top three Bengals rushers of the night included two quarterbacks (Bruce Gradkowski and Zac Robinson) and a wide receiver (Marvin Jones). While the Falcons have made strides to their defense, they're not exactly known as world-beaters and these stats are troubling.
Things have a chance to be different in this week's game against the Packers. Not only is BenJarvus Green-Ellis likely to make his return to the lineup, but they'll be facing the NFL's worst-ranked defense from 2011. The third preseason game is the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season, so the team and fans should be hoping for a good showing even if Marvin Lewis claims that the team won't be going full-go. Clint Boling will also have another week's worth of practices as a starter, so hopefully he will get more comfortable in his new role.
With Andy Dalton seemingly looking improved and A.J. Green being the next big star receiver in the NFL, the running game doesn't necessarily need to be dominant. I would venture to guess that having the team's overall rushing offense placing them in the top half of the NFL should make the team quite formidable. From what we've seen so far, that's not looking like that will be the case.