ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 16: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals passes under pressure by Stephen Nicholas #54 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on August 16, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Pro Football Focus came away with three different conclusions from the Bengals/Falcons game last Thursday. The detailed website focused on the guard play from the Bengals, other weapons besides A.J. Green, and the safety play. These are three of the main concerns that many have with the team heading into September.
"He (Zeitler) spent the majority of his time in pass protection and didn’t give up anything major and got some movement in the running game on the few occasions he had an opportunity. He got good position and (wonder of wonders) a little vertical displacement on Jerry on one play and on another got quickly to the second level, locked on and pushed back Nicholas beyond the first down marker.
On the other side Clint Boling wasn’t as solid. Babineaux got outside him for late pressure and I saw nothing of note as a run blocker. That’s not to say he was dreadful by any means and this sort of performance is unlikely to lose many games"
While Boling will not be a Pro Bowl player anytime soon, he continues to improve on his rookie season. Boling also is getting more comfortable in the left guard spot that he will be expected to occupy this season.
The guys at Pro Football Focus think that Jermaine Gresham is the most likely to be the biggest weapon on offense after Green. He just needs to be more consistent:
"There’s no question who Dalton’s main target will be this year and by season’s end A.J. Green will have been thrown a ton of balls particularly when he plays like he did today. Against a good, aggressive secondary he was targeted five times and only brought in two but one of those was for a 50 yard TD where he seemed to find an extra gear to blow past Samuel.
If for some reason he isn’t there, it appears that Jermaine Gresham may be ready to take the next step. I’ve always thought his talent, particularly as a blocker, was obvious but his consistency much less so. He was just starting to get things going as both a receiver and blocker when injury struck and he appeared to hyperextend his knee.
This left me looking for the next guy up and wondering just how bad things could get without Green. Armon Binns, a street free agent from last year started with waiver wire pick-ups Andrew Hawkins (from the Rams) and Brandon Tate (From New England) also seeing significant early reps. All this amounted to was a single six yard catch (for Tate) on three targets.
Dalton looks a mature and well rounded player, but he will need options beyond Green to stop the whole offense becoming totally predictable. Someone needs to step up but I saw nothing to suggest that player is currently on their roster."
A player better step up and be the number two option or Dalton will have a noticeable sophomore slump. Different guys can combine to form number two receiver production, but there needs to be that secondary option, It seems that Binns and Tate are fighting it out for the number two receiver spot. Can either one of these young receivers make a major impact this season?
The safety position may be the most worrisome position on the whole Bengals team. Taylor Mays will have to fix a few coverage issues if the safety position is going to be a positive for the team this season:
"Another area of weakness for Cincinnati could well be at safety. Reggie Nelson played pretty well last year and more of the same would be welcome. It looks likely that Taylor Mays will be his partner, but that he looks like the only legitimate option should be a cause for concern in itself.
As if to validate this rush to judgment both players flashed ability early but also gave warning of potential issues. Nelson closed quickly on Tony Gonzalez to help stop him short of a first down but was also in primary coverage on two first down throws as well as missing a tackle on Jones. Mays attacked fullback Mike Cox with such venom on the second offensive play he disrupted the whole run, knocking Cox to ground in the process but also had issues in coverage.
In general it always seemed like there was too big a gap behind the linebackers on passing plays and while this is probably a result of inexperience at MLB it also looked like the safeties had some measure of responsibility too. Quick pressure will help and that’s something the Bengals should be able to generate but I can see this being a cause for concern throughout the year."
Pro Football Focus does a great job at looking at some potential problems that the team may encounter this season. Improving these potential issues will be key when it comes to winning those tough division games.