Editor's Note: This is part one of a weekly post in which I state the seven biggest things that I noticed about the previous game.
The Bengals took the field for the first time in the 2011 season last Friday during the first week of the preseason. The played the Lions in Detroit and, at the end of the game, were defeated. No. Not defeated. At the end of the game, they were destroyed by a score of 34-3.
It's early. That's true. And, thanks to the lockout, the team has missed about 20 practices before they took the field for the first time. Even though the scoreboard didn't show it, there were some things to be excited about. There are some things to be worried about as well.
So, without further ado, here are the seven things I think about the team's preseason opener, one through three.
|Thing I Think One: I'm worried about the offensive line|
A rookie quarterback has a couple best friends. One of them is a running back that can carry the ball 20-plus times every Sunday and the other is an offensive line that can give him some room to grow into the NFL.
Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has one of those things. I guess that's better than none.
The starting offensive line on Friday was as follows:
Andrew Whitworth (LT), Nate Livings (LG), Kyle Cook (C), Bobbie Williams (RG), Andre Smith (RT)
Whitworth is one of the best left tackles in the game and Dalton's lucky to have him. Andre Smith, while unproven, may have more talent than anyone else on the offensive line, especially as a run blocker, and will hopefully only get better. The trouble doesn't come from the outside, though. The trouble comes from the middle, which is the last place any quarterback wants trouble.
Livings has been bad and he's not getting any better and Williams on Sunday looked like he was beginning to show his age.
The Lions knew it and the rest of the NFL is going to know it too. The Lions were able to drop seven players in pass coverage and still get quite a bit of pressure on Dalton with a four-man rush. The majority of the pressure came from between the tackles and that's not good news for Dalton.
Hopefully the Bengals find an offensive lineman that can do his job or hopefully Dalton figures out how to play quarterback on the run.
|Thing I Think Two: Dalton showed some poise
Even though Dalton got his helmet ripped off by Ndomukong Suh, which to me would be a terrifying experience, the Bengals new quarterback got back on his feet and eventually found his rhythm. He finished the game by completing 11 of 15 passes for 69 yards and one interception (his first pass of the game... and his career).
He didn't fold under pressure and he didn't make too many mistakes. Of course the Bengals didn't put him in many risky situations and most of the plays were safe, but Dalton still eventually got in a groove and when he did, he looked good.
I think he's perfectly capable of leading the team's first-string offense. Having Benson behind him will only help.
Speaking of Benson....
|Thing I Think Three: Benson looked good|
Benson only played for a short period of time but in that short period of time, he ran the ball six times for 37 yards with a long carry of 16 yards. The offensive line was much better at run blocking than they were at pass blocking and Benson ran downhill, breaking tackles and running over defenders on every play. He looked good.
Benson will be needed this season. Dalton is going to be put in a situation to manage games and Benson will be his main weapon. Once the run game is established, Dalton will have an easier time passing the ball. If Benson was happy in 2009 with the way the team used him to carry the load, he should start to get excited about how Jay Gruden will use him this year.