CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 23: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals calls a play at the line against the Green Bay Packers during a preseason NFL game at Paul Brown Stadium on August 23, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Cincinnati's offensive performance left much to be desired. Some called it for what it was: awful. Others, with the argument that this is only preseason in mind, called it discouraging. Others simply shrugged it off as preseason performances believing that within two weeks all of these problems will magically disappear. During our first quarter review of the team's offense, it seems like everyone is probably right. There were mistakes, plays with questionable schemes and at times, downright defeats. And there were moments that Cincinnati actually produced, showing good cohesion within a group that's expected to improve from last year (for 2-3 plays at least).
Brandon Tate receives the punt after Green Bay's opening possession stalled at midfield, calls for a fair catch before anyone was within five yards of him and the Cincinnati Bengals open their first drive of the game from their own nine-yard line.
Dalton fakes the handoff to Brian Leonard and surveys the routes and coverages. The Packers only brought three, leaving eight men in coverage. However someone made a mistake, and we're not sure whom. After faking the handoff, A.J. Green swung around as if he were assigned to run an end-around. Green and Dalton nearly collided, if not for Green's efforts to redirect around his quarterback.
There are three reasons why this doesn't appear designed. The above mentioned near-collision. Green stopped showing any effort in his route as he was swinging around. And Dalton never looked to the right of midfield, despite only a linebacker within 15 yards of Green's vicinity. Clearly if Green were the target, Dalton was looking for him. After roughly six seconds in the pocket, Dalton felt pressure on what we can presume was a busted play, scrambled to his left, running out of bounds for a three-yard gain.
Kyle Cook didn't have a good game against the bigger nose tackles, especially Ryan Pickett. On the following down Dalton handed off to Leonard, targeting the right edge. Pickett strafed down the line of scrimmage with virtually no affect from Cook to redirect or stall the nose tackle's progress. Eventually the former the Ohio State defensive tackle filled the point of attack and dropped Leonard for a minimal one-yard gain.
If it's any consolation, Andre Smith easily pushed out the defensive end sealing the edge for Leonard while Kevin Zeitler set the stage for a good block in the second level. Cincinnati would eventually punt after Smith was called for a false start and a seven-yard dump pass to Brian Leonard, falling four yards short of the first down. At least your typical concession play.
With eight minutes remaining in the first quarter, Cincinnati started their second possession from the 20-yard line after Green Bay took a seven-point lead. This is where we have to question the scheme. It started well on a Cedric Peerman run to the right. Clint Boling and Andrew Whitworth sealed the backside. Kyle Cook, with help from Kevin Zeitler, neutralized B.J. Raji, while Zeitler chipped off into the second-level. Andre Smith easily turned Ryan Pickett. Here's what we question. Smith is designed to make the initial hit on Pickett with tight end Colin Cochart picking up the block.
And that's exactly what happened, except Cochart is no match for Pickett, who easily fought off the block making the tackle on Cedric Peerman for a two-yard gain. Say "Cochart has to do his job" all you want, but sometimes if you design a play with an obvious mismatch, you're going to lose.
On the following play Dalton settled into the pocket, with a barrier forming to his left. Colin Cochart is assigned Green Bay rookie Nick Perry. It wasn't close. As Perry pressed Cochart into Dalton, the quarterback retreated narrowly avoiding Perry. With Dalton scrambling to the right and Pickett closing in, Dalton threw the football away. But again. Why do you have Cochart taking on Perry, a rookie that that Green Bay drafted to help Clay Matthews and the Packers pass rush?
On third down Dalton was sacked. But it wasn't so much the pass rush, as it was the coverage and perhaps (as Joe Goodberry would argue), the simplistic pass progressions that simply aren't finding open receivers. Five seconds had elapsed before Clay Matthews broke through the line of scrimmage, forcing Dalton to secured the football and find a lane as B.J. Raji completed the quarterback sack.
With 3:26 remaining in the first quarter, Clay Matthews squatted a pass down at the line of scrimmage during Cincinnati's first play of their third possession. Matthews was largely unblocked because the called play was a wide receiver screen to the left, with offensive linemen departing for their second-level blocks. At this point you're rubbing your temples, hoping this to be a mere aberration of a superior Packers defense than a hint of things to come.
However Dalton found the momentum Cincinnati was looking for.
After taking the shotgun snap on second down, Dalton surveyed the field, aware the Packers overloaded the left side. Eventually a hole would form at the line of scrimmage with Andrew Whitworth pushing Matthews upfield and Brian Leonard knocking the blitzing Charles Woodson inside (and to the turf).
Dalton picks up speed, outrunning A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, sliding towards a good downfield block by Donald Lee. Dalton avoided tackles by D.J. Smith, Jarrett Bush and Morgan Burnett before Sam Shields' angle forces Dalton out of bounds during the 28-yard scramble.
On the following play Brian Leonard took advantage of a well-blocked scheme from a traditional Power-O. Clint Boling pulled from left to right, taking out Perry. The rest of the offensive line blocked down with Chris Pressley lead-blocking through the point of attack, unintentionally taking out two defenders.
Everyone made the perfect block until an unblocked Matthews tracked down Leonard, making the tackle after the 12-yard gain to Green Bay's 40-yard line. Leonard picked up another seven yards, following the blocks to his right. Smith wiped out Perry, while Lee, Zeitler, Cook formed their blocks with Chris Pressley playing the role of hunter.
A sudden success with Cincinnati's rushing offense prompted a play-action, with Dalton faking to Leonard behind a great wall of studs blocking out the Green Bay Packers.
Dalton fired a fast ball to Brandon Tate on a hitch, making an acrobatic reception over the cornerback, keeping both feet inbounds. First down.
Unfortunately Cincinnati's offense stalled. On first down from Green Bay's 24-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter, Dalton handed off to Leonard on a run to the left. D.J. Smith and Clay Matthews fought off an Andrew Whitworth and Donald Lee block respectively, dropping Leonard for a one-yard loss. On second down Dalton tried a touch-pass to Armon Binns down the right sidelines that landed in the palm of his right hand. Though being vertical without the help of his left hand, the pass fell to the ground. Eventually the Bengals got on the board with a Mike Nugent 42-yard field goal.