The Cincinnati Bengals head into Washington this weekend to pay tribute in the nation's capital, looking to double their win total with a grip on the shared AFC North title chase. But there are a few notes we wanted to point out about this weekend's game.
REDSKINS PLAYING FIRST GAME AT HOME. For the second time in three weeks the Cincinnati Bengals play the role of visiting team against an opponent playing their regular season opener at home. Though probably not as intense as a Ravens regular season opener in Baltimore during Monday Night Football, the Bengals will be faced with a similar situation, dealing a loud stadium housed by fans feeling energized about the team's future.
The Washington Redskins played their first two games on the road in New Orleans and St. Louis, tabbing week three as the introduction for Redskins fans to watch their franchise rookie quarterback and the league's No. 4 ranked offense at home.
Though we're not sure how much it matters.
Since 2009 the Redskins are 7-17 when playing at home and yet they're riding a five-game winning streak during their home openers, dating back to 2007.
THE ROBERT GRIFFIN III FACTOR. Two weeks into the regular season and Robert Griffin III is already leading all NFL rookies with a passer rating of 111.6 -- also ranks fourth in the NFL among all quarterbacks. He's completed over 70 percent of his passes, generated 526 yards passing and thrown for three touchdowns. His 88-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon against the Saints and 68-yard touchdown to Leonard Hankerson against the Rams, marks the first time since 1969 that a rookie posted a 65-yard (plus) touchdown pass in each of his first two games.
That's not even the most impressive part about Griffin. Largely using something not unlike a college spread offense, the Redskins have designed runs for Griffin out of shotgun -- even on third and long, which he's converted. His 124 yards rushing is the most by a quarterback (veteran and rookie) and nearly doubles the total by Michael Vick (66 yards) who has the second-most yards rushing by a quarterback prior to Thursday night's game between the Giants and Panthers.
And then there's the always present rookie factor. According to Geoff Hobson with Bengals.com, the Cincinnati Bengals are 10-9 against rookie quarterbacks under Marvin Lewis.
THE VOIDED PASS RUSH TAKES INTERESTING TWIST. During Bengals roundtable on WLW Thursday night, John Thornton hinted that the Cincinnati Bengals might be better off without an inside pass rush against the Redskins this Sunday. And he might be right. Most of the yardage that the Cincinnati Bengals have allowed against scrambling quarterbacks generally never comes from the outside, rather between the tackles.
Perhaps this is a weekend that Geno Atkins, Devon Still and the other inside pass rushers, hold their ground at the line of scrimmage, hoping that any combination of Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers flushes Griffin towards the line of scrimmage.
Unfortunately Griffin has a tremendous arm and has proven himself as a thrower in a passing offense with competent receivers -- unlike many scrambling quarterbacks. Yet we fear that if the pass rush resembles what we've seen against the Ravens and Browns, then it's a huge risk with Griffin's quick progression as a passer against a disappointing Bengals secondary.
SUSTAINING THE OFFENSIVE PRODUCTIVTY -- WITH BETTER BALANCE. Against the Baltimore Ravens the Cincinnati Bengals rushing offense generated 129 yards rushing, averaging 4.6 yards/rush (most against a Ravens defense since 2003). Yet the passing offense was under-performing with Andy Dalton posting a passer rating of 65.3, no touchdowns and a sub-60 percent completion rate. Let me make this clear. The passing offense wasn't terrible against the Ravens, they just weren't impressive and entirely too inconsistent throughout the entire game (not just the 12 minutes between the second and third quarter).
Roles were reversed against the Cleveland Browns last week. Andy Dalton threw for three touchdowns, completing 77.4 percent of passes and generating a career-high 128.2 passer rating. Additionally Dalton's distribution was fantastic, enabling four wide receivers the opportunity to make a huge impact generating 50 yards or more receiving each. But then Cincinnati's offensive line struggled against Cleveland's front seven, generating a poor 3.2 yard/rush average, including BenJarvus Green-Ellis' 75 yards on 21 carries (3.6 yards/rush).
Each week a different offensive unit has surged.
THE DEFEATED NEED TO PROVE THEIR WORTH. It's a depressing perspective. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga has moved into the master bedroom of the fan' doghouse while tight end Jermaine Gresham sleeps on the sofa in the living room. These guys need victories this week and we hope that they get them. They're vital components of a team expected to be the first Bengals squad to earn postseason berths in consecutive seasons since 1981-1982. Though it hardly feels like those expectations are as strong today as they were months ago.
Yes. We're critical of them, but in the end they're our guys and we hope our guys perform at their best. And it's not like they've been that bad -- but they're clearly not playing well, and there's far too much expected of them to avoid the conversation. But the season is two games old, meaning that there is plenty of time to correct the navigation blunder to heal those wounds.