Until the NFL does something about it, the preseason issues won't go away.
The fact that fans are expected to pay full-price for a preseason game boggles my mind. Most people aren't going to dig into their pockets to watch an NFL preseason game where the end result is the least of anyone's concern. Yet with strong convictions from the league's Executives (aka, GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR MONEY, STUPID FANS), it's unlikely that the league will lower their preseason prices nor lift an irrelevant television blackout ban -- a ban that's typically circumvented by websites hosting illegal streams that usually infect computers, thus compromising, not only the computer's health, but the internet's as well.
Then there's the players, who play these games for free, risking injury, if not a career, on a freak play in a game that has no meaning. It's one of the players' arguments for reducing preseason games in the first place. Yet it's guys like Jermaine Gresham and Andrew Whitworth, recovering from training camp injuries, who need the preseason work. It's guys like Jeremy Hill, Mohamed Sanu and Russell Bodine, who are strong candidates for temporary promotions due to injuries -- or high-contract casualties. We're unaware of significant injuries Saturday, but there are a lot of unknowns with guys like J.K. Schaffer (likely back on the concussion protocol), Jeremy Hill, Rex Burkhead, James Wright and Darqueze Dennard... among others.
Speaking of Hill, he was placed behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis on the game's depth chart. Bodine was flagged for an offensive hold and Sanu posted an impressive over-the-shoulder 43-yard touchdown early in the first quarter. Success. High marks. Praise. It was great day for Cincinnati's first-team units and much of the same with their defense. Everyone else deserves negative scores. More like negative-minus.
Last week, the team's swarming defense held the opposing offense to a quick possession. The offense scored a field goal to take an early first quarter lead. This week, it was the Bengals defense forcing a three-and-out and, this time, the offense completed their possession with a touchdown. Following a six-yard dump off to Giovani Bernard, a false start on Clint Boling and four-yard pass to Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals have third-and-five from the Bengals 38-yard line with 12:53 remaining in the first. Quarterback Andy Dalton quickly (if not systematically) finds A.J. Green near the 50-yard line on the right hashmark, picking up 21 yards for the first down.
Three plays later, Dalton, with protection that can only be defined as perfect, took the snap from center and launched a pass down the middle of the field. Mohamed Sanu ran down the seam and Dalton beautifully dropped a perfect pass into Sanu's basket for the 43-yard touchdown reception. Dalton opened the evening completing his first four passes for 74 yards passing and a touchdown.
With 2:51 remaining in the first quarter, A.J. Green did his speciality route... run faster than everyone else down the right sidelines. Andy Dalton, again, perfectly dropped the football into Green's basket, picking up 35 yards to the New York Jets eight-yard line. Cincinnati momentarily stalled on a Russell Bodine offensive hold, but the Bengals recovered with a 13-yard slant to A.J. Green (around the right hash) with quarterback and receiving play exposing a beautiful gap in New York's zone defense. Giovani Bernard powered to the one-yard line, setting up a third and goal with a minute remaining in the first quarter. Dalton handed off to Bernard, who chugged his little tree-trunk legs -- with help from everyone in orange shoving the pile -- into the endzone.
The Bengals were leading 17-3 by the second quarter with Dalton completing all eight passes (8/8) for 144 yards and a touchdown (generating a perfect 158.3 rating). Dating back to last week, Dalton has scored on all four possessions that he's played.
If we grade the Bengals at this stage, aces. Everything after this was worth a Randy Marsh impression, a microwave and Colorado-based marijuana laws.
Backup quarterback Matt Scott, the darling quarterback from last week who nearly reached immortality, showed that against the New York Jets, he's a mortal. In fact, he was a little awful. Granted, the third down fumble during his first possession was the result of unblocked pass rushers. Yet, here's the reality, Scott had two possessions, a 14-point lead, a lost fumble, a three-and-out and a failure to convert any of his passes for completions. By Scott's third possession, the game was basically tied.
Scott managed the team's two minute warning and found some successes. A beautiful scramble with 1:15 remaining converted a sure-loss into a gain, and with the help of an unnecessary roughness, the Bengals were pushed to their own 41-yard line. Jeremy Hill avoided a tackle on a completion and picked up 16.
It wasn't meant to be... nor was it entirely his fault. Calvin Pryor dislodged a pass that Cobi Hamilton should have had. Brandon Tate lost his footing down the right sidelines with over 30 seconds remaining, leading to another incomplete. In the end, Scott is not ready. He unwisely took two sacks and a delay of game with time being an issue. Clearly we're being reminded that he's a rookie, inexperienced and not ready to be an NFL quarterback. Scott finished the game completing eight of 22 passes for 29 yards... and 26 yards ldost on three sacks.
In the end, the biggest fear for preseason games is, and will forever be, injuries... something that they weren't able to avoid.
- First-round cornerback Darqueze Dennard left the game with a hip.
- Second-round running back Jeremy Hill suffered a right shoulder injury in the third quarter, and was listed as out.
- Linebacker J.K. Schaffer suffered a head injury during New York's fourth quarter touchdown. He didn't return.
- Neither did running back Rex Burkhead, who suffered a knee injury.
- Wide receiver James Wright suffered a hip injury in the fourth. He did not return.
- Quarterback Tyler Wilson took a shot late in the fourth and was replaced by Matt Scott.
- Vontaze Burfict momentarily left with a shoulder, but returned on the next series. Linebacker Marquis Flowers suffered a third-quarter leg injury but, like Burfict, quickly returned.
- Cedric Peerman is clearly taking advantage of his opportunities. It's not the yards, but what he's doing with the football. We were counting the number of missed tackles that he forced, but we ran out of digits. It was the effort. But that's Peerman. Always has been.
- Until he fumbled it. That marks four turnovers in two preseason games.
- Peerman was the team's leading rusher, posting 34 yards on seven carries (4.9 yard/rush).
- On the other hand, the Bengals rushing defense wasn't very good. Bilal Powell and Chris Johnson combined for 104 yards rushing on 14 carries.
- By the five minute mark in the third quarter, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 10 carries and 38 yards rushing.
- A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu led the team in yards receiving with 69 and 56 yards respectively.
- There were over 45,000 in paid attendance. According to my eyes... that number is a bit high.
- Cobi Hamilton was targeted 12 times Saturday night, but posted two receptions.
- Ryan Whalen led the Bengals with four grabs.
- At least Tyler Wilson was over 50 percent, completing seven of 13 passes for 39 yards.
- Wilson and Scott went a combined 15 for 35, for 93 yards and an interception.
"That’s about as good as it gets in the preseason, I guess. It just felt good out there. We are all in sync, moving the ball, got some big check plays and scored points. That’s what you want. We are all in sync."
- Andy Dalton
My bros look sharp!!!— Marvin Jones Jr (@MarvinJonesJr) August 17, 2014
PRESEASON GAME No. 3: Cincinnati Bengals at Arizona Cardinals
DATE: Sunday, August 24.
TIME: 8 P.M.
TELEVISION: Sunday Night Game on NBC (National game)