The Bengals notched their first preseason victory against the Carolina Panthers last night. It was nice to watch… well, to listen to, since I live inside the blackout area. (I’ll be getting used to those blackouts again.) The win was definitely a step in the right direction for the young offense.
For two weeks, we have heard from ledge-jumpers who were sure that the two preseason losses spelled certain and complete doom for the season. We cautioned those people to not read too much into those games. And we must caution the same after this win. As the nay-sayers will remind us, it was one problem-riddled team beating another. But the way they won was not insignificant either. Keeping things in perspective, here are some of the things that stood out to me from preseason game #3.
Andy Dalton will frustrate us all season. His rookie mistakes will at times make us want to fire the remote into the television screen at interstate highway cruising speed… like the awful handoff that ended the first drive. (Keep it or pitch it, Andy, but don’t stretch awkwardly and miss the handoff anyway.) Patience is key as he grows into the role of starting NFL QB. My advice: unless you’ve been angling for a new TV anyway, tether the remote to the couch. And remember that the mistakes made this year will ultimately make him better next year.
Dalton will also thrill us all season. As brutal as the botched handoff was, his 40 yard TD pass to A.J. Green was beautiful. The touch on it was perfect. It has been quite a while since we saw a pass like that from the Bengals offense. As the season goes on, we should see the frustrating plays decrease while plays like that one because more frequent.
As goes the offensive line, so goes the offense. Carolina’s front 7 struggled, and the Bengals’ starting O-line dominated them. They opened chasms for the running game, and they gave Dalton time, who took advantage of the gift to make good decisions. Paul Alexander, you had better be right in the guys you keep, because the offense will rise or fall with how your unit plays. And think hard about Dave Lapham’s suggestion of finding some way to get Anthony Collins on the field as much as possible, even if it is at guard.
As goes the secondary, so goes the defense. All year, opponents will pass to try to set up the run. Running to set up the pass won’t work because the front 7 is playing well. The secondary held up better against the Panthers, although I’m not sure Cam Newton gave them a good test. Even though Reggie Nelson’s hair is making tackles everywhere, look for the Bengals to scour the waiver wire looking for upgrades.
Depth is an issue all around on offense. After 3 games, the 2nd and 3rd teams have yet to score points. The backup QBs have thrown for 52 more yards in all 3 games combined than Andy Dalton had in a half against the Panthers. Much of that has to do with the ineffectiveness of the backups on the O-line. The starters had better stay healthy all year.
Wide receivers who block are awesome. Something T.O. and Chad were unwilling to do.
The Bengals are not the worst team in the NFL this year. The stuff-shirt talking heads have enjoyed throwing penalty flags on the Bengals for their horrendous offseason, but their preseason power rankings mean nothing to the season. The Bengals are not ready to take on teams like the Steelers or the Patriots by any means. But fortunately they play four pretty bad teams to start the season, and the Panthers game showed that they can beat bad teams. So with some early success, a lot of hard work during that first month, and a little good fortune, we just might see the Bengals drafting closer to #10 instead of in the top 3.