Bengals give preview of firepower
Friday's lone preseason game — a 22-9 win for the Bengals over the Eagles — showed us plenty about two teams that could contend in their respective conferences this season. Here's a breakdown of what this game revealed:
• Veteran QB Carson Palmer looked fairly sharp against the Eagles. He threw with very good velocity, perhaps more than at any point last season. However, he continues to throw the ball a bit too high. That was an issue for him in 2009. It was good to see Palmer get a chance to throw the ball deep to veteran WR Terrell Owens. The deep ball was missing from the Bengal offense last season.
• Veteran RB Cedric Benson looked in midseason form again. He continues to run hard and makes sharp cuts. He actually caught the ball well, too. His backup, second-year pro Bernard Scott, looked fast as usual. This duo should be even more potent as the coaches continue to evaluate how to use them.
• It will be interesting to see who will wind up being Cincinnati’s top passing target. Owens and Chad Ochocinco are capable of dominating the football. It could come down to matchups each week in regard to who will be the top passing target in each game.
• For the first time in perhaps more than 20 years, the Bengals actually have a receiving threat at the tight end position in rookie Jermaine Gresham. He’s a fluid athlete and is a seam buster against defenses.
• Even with starting DEs Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom inactive, the Bengals got pressure on Philadelphia’s offensive line from the beginning of the game to the end. As I mentioned in the pregame notes, Philadelphia’s offensive line interior could be a problem, and it was. LT Jason Peters had some rare mental errors in this game.
• Philadelphia starting QB Kevin Kolb was under siege from Cincinnati’s pass rush, but he did a great job of creating functional space in order to throw the football. He showed tremendous athleticism by throwing on the run and being accurate in the process. He had an amazing 28-yard pass to WR DeSean Jackson where he had to evade the rush and throw on the run to an open Jackson down field. Veteran QB Michael Vick was also under tremendous pressure, but he failed to use his checkdown options. Vick does not have the sense of timing that veteran quarterbacks should have. He needs to do a better job of sensing the rush.
• As mentioned above, Philadelphia’s offensive line gave up too much pressure. Whether it was the first- or second-team offensive line, it was a struggle. The timing and cohesiveness, as mentioned in the pregame notes, clearly wasn’t there.
• There were a few good stories from this game for Philadelphia, including rookie DE Brandon Graham, who continued his fine play. Graham is not just a high-motor player. He’s getting results even when he doesn’t get a sack. He’s forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball before he wants to. That’s the hidden part of pass rushing statistics. Graham lined up a few times inside during nickel situations.
• Philadelphia’s special teams units struggled in most areas.