July 31, 2014

Week Three Hit List

I hope you will forgive me as I know I’m a little late with this week’s hit list (by 3 days).  My “regular” job sometimes requires me to travel to far-off exotic lands where people speak in strange tongues and practice odd customs. 

This week it was New Jersey. 

Anyway, the Bengals won a very strange affair last Sunday in Washington, and “survived” several scares along the way.  The defense is still a real concern and ongoing injury issues continue to compound the problem.  However, the offense was brilliant, and Jay Gruden had a masterful game play-calling.  His stint as a coordinator may come to an end as he may find too many suitors for his services as a head coach come the offseason.

Overall, you have to come away from last week’s victory impressed.  The Bengals were underdogs in the game, and most pundits predicted a close victory for the Skins.  The reality is that Marvin Lewis’s team went into Washington and dominated the Redskins for the entire first half.  They never trailed in the game, and led by as much as 17.  They took a Redskin flurry in the third quarter, but then quickly re-established themselves in command before holding off the late rally.

38 points scored will win most games, even with the defense the way it is. With that, let’s look at the week three hit list.  Since its another one in the win column, we’ll start with the heroes:

Heroes—These Bengals shined in the victory

  • Andy Dalton:  Career-high passer rating, second straight 300+ yard outing, second straight 3 TD game.  Dalton is looking more and more like money in the bank.  Remember when he was drafted some people were calling him a poor man’s Drew Brees?  They may have been on to something.
  • A.J. Green:  Green leads the AFC in receiving yards with 311, and had a career-high 183 on Sunday, leading all NFL receivers for the week.  He torched DeAngelo Hall all day and continues to show that he is a rare talent.
  • Michael Johnson:  Johnson got 3 sacks and a forced fumble to go with 7 total tackles.  He abused both starting LT Trent Williams, and his replacement Jordan Black.  His efforts won Johnson this week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week award.  He’s been a warrior all year, playing almost every snap.  Look out, Katie and Mike, he’s in a contract year.  Things might get expensive soon.
  • Carlos Dunlap:  The Bengal pass rush is clearly better all across the line when Dunlap is in the game.  Despite Johnson’s 3 sacks, Dunlap is the best pass rusher on the team, and it could be argued that Johnson doesn’t get those sacks without the attention Dunlap draws.  The oft-injured former Gator is a full-fledged defensive playmaker, and his sack/fumble/recovery  (when he was supposedly out of position), led to a Bengals touchdown.
  • Mo Sanu:  One throw, one touchdown.  A pretty nice ball for a wide receiver.  His pass set the tone for the game and immediately put the Skins on their heels.

Goats—These Bengals need to play better

  • Rey Maualuga:  I don’t know how else to phrase what’s already been written.  The guy is playing slow, shooting the wrong gaps, and missing tackles.  I would not be surprised to see the team look at giving Dan Skuta or Rodrick Muckelroy some snaps in the middle, particularly if the Bengals get a lead Sunday.  With Vontaze Burfict now seemingly entrenched at Will, they probably won’t move him.  It’s clear that Maualuga needs to step up if he plans to keep his starting job.
  • BJGE:  I really love what BenJarvus has brought to this team.  He’s about as effective as Cedric Benson was, but he’s got a much better attitude and can actually block and catch a little bit.  Despite my admiration for the guy, he has to get a goat award for Sunday.  He averaged only 2.2 yards per carry, and fumbled for the first time in his NFL career.  The Redskins recovered.  I know this will not be a weekly thing, but facts are facts.  Sorry, Law-dog.
  • Andrew Whitworth:  Again, like BJGE, Whit is one of my favorite Bengals, and is underrated in league circles.  Nonetheless he was called for holding three times, and seemed to struggle a bit out there.  He needs to play better, particularly with teams like the Steelers, Baltimore, the Giants, and Denver still on the docket.  Those pass rushers are scary, and Whit has to protect Andy’s blind side better.

Bengals Game MVP:  Jay Gruden

I know he’s not a player, so he really can’t be MVP, but he did a phenomenal job calling plays.  Sunday might have just been the culmination of his work since being hired, but it shows just how brilliant a coach he is.  If what he was able to accomplish last year, in a strike-shortened offseason and a rookie QB and WR weren’t enough, seeing what he’s been putting together this year should convince you.  And according to him, they are still just scratching the surface of what’s possible.  The move back to the “West Coast Offense” (which originated in Cincy) has been great so far.  We could talk about Dalton’s numbers, or A.J. Green’s career day, or Armon Binns or my man Baby Hawk, but its Gruden that is taking these moving parts and turning them into a special offense.

Random Observations:  No Haikus

  • They ran a little no-huddle.  That’s a good thing.  I’d like to see more of it in the weeks ahead, and I think we will.
  • That fake field goal attempt was terrible.  I know that if it had worked I’d be saying it was brilliant, but I didn’t agree with the call at the time.  If Nugent would have kicked the field goal there, the final score would have been 41-31, and the nail-biting at the end wouldn’t have bee necessary.  Take away that Dalton interception, and it could have been 41-24.
  • As bad as the defense looked, they only surrendered 24 points (7 was a pick-six on the offense), and 7 of the 24 were scored as time was winding down and the Bengals were largely playing a prevent defense.  Here’s hoping this is a sign of improvement.
  • Carlos Dunlap’s impact on this team cannot be overstated.  He needs to stay healthy.
  • Baby Hawk does nothing but impress. Every. Single. Play.
  • I’m starting to wonder what the value is, exactly, to Bernard Scott being on the team.  He can’t seem to stay healthy, and didn’t do anything impressive Sunday.  Brian Leonard acquitted himself well with his opportunities, and frankly, I think he’s a better option to spell BJGE right now.
  • I still hate Brandon Tate as a kick returner.  I cringe every time he catches a kick or a punt.  Here’s an idea, maybe Scott can go back to returning kick-offs if he ever gets healthy.  Let Scott handle the kick-offs and Adam Jones do the punts.  Tate can be relegated to back-up duty on both.  Please.
  • RG3 is immensely talented, a phenomenal athlete, a natural leader, and a seemingly good person.  I like him a lot.  But he’s not going to survive 3 seasons if Mike Shanahan and his knucklehead son keep running the option with him.  He took some real shots from our guys Sunday.