One of the big questions coming into the 2017 season was how the Cincinnati Bengals planned to replace the leadership void created by the loss of Andrew Whitworth to free agency.
Two games into the season and that question has still not been answered. But Dre Kirkpatrick did have an answer for the Bengals’ woes so far
Rarely do you hear an NFL player be quite so frank with his opinions, especially this early in the season. But, in the face of another game with no touchdowns from a Bengals’ offense that many people figured to be among the most high-powered units in the NFL, it is more than time for a little honesty.
On Sunday, the Bengals gave up five sacks to Baltimore’s front seven. Cincinnati had four days to make adjustments, and what did Paul Alexander come up with?
Tyler Eifert, who clearly is not over his back issues, lined up a couple of steps closer to Cedric Ogbuehi, presumably in an effort to help cut off the rampaging J.J. Watt.
The result? The Bengals surrendered five sacks to the Texans.
Cincinnati’s own front seven was able to put pretty consistent pressure on Houston’s rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson in the first half, and they wound up with a trio of sacks and numerous other hurries.
But, Houston made adjustments at the half and the Bengals, as is their custom, did not.
The result? The Bengals had no sacks in the second half.
Sunday, Cincinnati’s defense played relatively well, with the exception of one play. And that one play was a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin that came when cornerback Darqueze Dennard took a bad angle to try to pick up the fleet-footed receiver after having been picked. Thursday night was more of the same.
The Bengals’ defense looked looked strong against the Texans, led by Geno Atkins, who had two first-half sacks, up front and Vincent Rey, who filled in admirably for the missing Vontaze Burfict - with the exception of one play. And that one play was a 49-yard touchdown scramble by Watson, a play that featured a missed tackle by Dennard that would have stopped the rookie quarterback at around the Bengals’ 20-yard-line.
Sunday, the Bengals made three forays into the red zone, and came away with no points. Thursday night, Cincinnati made three trips into the red zone and produced three field goals. Improvement, yes, but certainly not what is expected of a unit that boasts the kind of weapons the Bengals do.
Most of the blame for that lack of production has to fall squarely on the shoulders of the offensive coordinator. A.J. Green looked like he was going to carry the Bengals to their first victory of the year with a solid first half. But Green was a non-factor in the red zone.
Tyler Eifert was the forgotten man for most of the first half before making a 22-yard reception late in the second quarter. Eifert came out strong in the third quarter before a reappearance of his bad back ended his effectiveness.
John Ross, the fastest man ever at the NFL Combine, carried the ball one time and fumbled. Cody Core, who found himself open a couple of times Sunday only to see Dalton miss the mark, did not even see the field Thursday night. Josh Malone, the Bengals’ other speedy receiver, was inactive for the second straight game and Tyler Boyd was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.
The result was another Bengals’ loss, and another 10 days for Cincinnati fans to scratch their heads and wonder where it all went wrong. Many of us are looking at the train wreck that once was a perennial playoff team and find ourselves agreeing with Kirkpatrick - We suck!