I was born and raised in Hamilton, Ohio until I was nine years old; the Fisher Body plant in Fairfield that closed in 1988 was my dad's old stomping grounds. I vividly remember watching Tim Krumrie's leg breaking in SuperBowl XXIII, to the point that it really didn't look THAT bad...until you saw it from THAT angle. For the next several years I called myself a Bengals fan as always but became much more of a baseball fan following the Reds. I as a result had the good fortune of missing the Dark Ages of Bengaldom which was good...because I would be a much different person today had I suffered through like many of you with the passion for this team I bear today.
I greatly look forward to recapping each game and giving my take, sharing what I have seen and opening lines of discussion for each of you to agree, disagree or just springboard off of my thoughts.
On to the meat of the article! Once again we saw some good things and some bad things, some encouraging things and some discouraging. I have a feeling this may become a pattern. However, in an effort not to digress and bore you all to tears, let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?
1.) Chris Henry. If the past two games have been the slightest indicator, fantasy managers who draft Henry in middle rounds will be very, very happy. Fantasy managers who draft him in late rounds stand a good shot at winning their leagues. Two weeks running now he has shown great poise between the hashes and made every difference for the Bengals' offense. Chris Henry is going to be a very integral cog in this offense if the Bengals are to have any success moving the football and scoring offensive points.
2.) Pressure on the quarterback. Robert Geathers sacking Tom Brady at the beginning of the second drive looke an awful lot like the Robert Geathers that got paid three years ago after a double-digit sack season. He looked like the guy that terrorized the late Steve McNair during the 2007 season opener. With the solid D-line play (more to come on that later) that we've been hoping for, maybe it will finally free Geathers and Odom up to put some heat on the opposing quarterback. Good pressure was also applied at times by many other players including Pat Sims, Tom Nelson, Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga.
3.) J.T. O'Sullivan looked very good again. In passing for 141 yards, no picks, his second consecutive week with a touchdown into the arms of Chris Henry and a passer rating north of 140, I think it's safe to say we are at the very least in better shape than we were last year were the God of Golden Arms (h/t Kirkendall) to go down with an injury again this year. With good zip, good touch and a surprisingly quick release, I'm starting to wonder if he just wasn't a good fit in San Francisco.
4.) Pat Sims. The DT was a one-man wrecking ball last night. He showed incredible quickness for a man of his size, flowing from sideline to sideline with frightening speed. Seven tackles, one sack and (I believe) a couple of TFL's. I can't see how Tank Johnson will keep his first-string role unless he also steps up his game if Sims keeps up like he played last night. The man was just exciting to watch.
5.) Chad Ochocinco appears to be back in full effect. I all but burned my 85 jersey last year during his escapades, but the man seems to be genuinely "with it" again this year. Some people are inexplicably taking umbrage with the fact that he kicked last night (on which he drew very high scores from respected kicker Jay Feely), at which I am completely confused. Did it garner attention for him? Yes. Did it hurt anything? Absolutely not.
I could actually keep going for quite some time here as more and more positives keep coming to mind, but I shall refrain from detailed analyses on anything else that impressed me last night. Rather, let me give honorable mentions to Rey Maualuga for flattening a NE running back on a screen, to Jonathan Joseph for playing like he did in '06 and '07 and Kevin Huber for improving on his already-better-than-Larson performance last week.
There were as always negatives to take away as well. The big ones for me are as follows.
1.) The offensive line didn't seem to play as well this week as they did last week. They allowed four sacks over the duration of the game against the Patriots' 3-4 base. (Aside: Dan Coats, you MUST hold on to that ball. That was pathetic.) This is troublesome in the short term to me because we deal with two 34 defenses in our division with Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Hopefully the proper adjustments will be made to better perform against the 3-4 by week 1 when the boys in stripes square off against Denver to open the season.
2.) Tackling wasn't quite alarmlingly poor, but I think disturbingly so is applicable after watching ball carrier after ball carrier slip past the first attempt. Tackling had improved greatly under Zimmer last year, let's hope that trend continues rather than a return to the abysmal matador-ery that ensued under Bresnahan.
3.) Ball security was poor again for the second consecutive week. As I mentioned earlier, there is no acceptable reason for Dan Coats to drop the ball he dropped at the beginning of the second quarter for what should have been an easy twenty-yard gain. Cedric Benson putting it on the carpet for the second straight week bothers me as well, obviously. it's a shame that camp has already broken, or I'd love to see Jim Anderson have Benson carry the ball everywhere he goes until the next game.
4.) Entirely, entirely too many penalties. Anthony Collins needs to get more of a grip on his technique and less of a grip on his defenders' jerseys. Illegal formations, holding, the ticky-tack pushoff call on Simpson that wrecked what may have been the best catch of the preseason for any wide receiver...the team must do a far better job than this. This team has traditionally made too many mental mistakes; the past two weeks haven't given me warm fuzzies that the trend is changing yet.
5.) In large part as a byproduct of the first item on the list of unfortunates, the run game suffered as a whole this week. Bernard Scott had a poor showing, carrying five times for six yards. Noted however was the fact that for nearly every one of his five carries he was being touched in the backfield by men wearing the wrong color jerseys. What worries me is that while Scott had a very poor showing, DeDe Dorsey had a very good night. This bothers me because every preseason for the past four years (with the exception of his injury causing his release from the Colts and subsequent return to the Bengals) Dorsey has been spectacular. The problem with that lies in the fact that due to his sleight size he hasn't had much luck staying healthy for the regular season. Scott needs to have a big week next week so that he can keep a roster spot and avoid being waived and placed on the practice squad. Mark my words, if he ends up on the practice squad we'll lose him.
Those are the main points I wanted to touch on this week. Please use these observations as a means to discuss your own thoughts twenty-four hours later in the comments thread.
Still drinking the kool-aid for better or worse,
A Pragmatic Bengals Fan