Bengals Fans Should Be Encouraged After Week One
The Bengals started their first game the way we thought they would.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson displayed tremendous creativity with his play design and appeared to have a trick for everybody on the offense. It quickly became apparent that tight end Tyler Eifert was vital to the grand scheme, but when he grotesquely dislocated his elbow fighting for additional yardage on a pass, the formations became more conventional, and the ease at which Cincinnati drove the field lessened over time.
The same could be said for Vontaze Burfict. Once he became concussed, the Bengals defense became immediately less fearsome. The strip tackle he had in the first half before coming out was a classic example of how he can change games all by himself. With their leader and field general in the locker room, though, a defensive drop off became noticeable.
Of course, they pulled it out in the end, and that's the bottom line. Brandon Tate found himself at receiver more than anyone is used to, but to his credit did a serviceable job. Vincent Ray did not accomplish the same eye-popping stats he had in Baltimore last year, but also filled in adequately when called upon. The Bengals have some excellent backups at a variety of positions, but they were dominant when Eifert and Burfict were in, and were only competitive when each had to come out.
Burfict and Geno Atkins should be back to normal very soon (Atkins was reportedly carted off of the field, but it seems that he was only dehydrated), but Eifert should miss significant time. If that is the case, the double tight-end formation the Bengals have been crafting for the past two seasons will likely be shelved or at least used a lot more sparingly than expected, because while the coaches may say a lot of nice things about him, Alex Smith is not the vertical threat that Eifert is.
The Bengals and their fans should be mightily encouraged though as to how in control they looked in yesterday's game. The penalties were limited, the tackling was fine and there were no turnovers. Adam Jones allowed a mental blunder that nearly resulted in a loss and was bailed out by the amazing A.J. Green and his hands of gold, but they certainly outplayed the Ravens in terms of a complete-game effort.
There really is no other measuring stick outside of the postseason that gauges a team's football proficiency like Week 1. I remember in 2009 when the Bengals lost to Denver on a flukey hail mary pass, and thinking the team looked strong and tough despite the outcome. They went 10-6 that year and won the division. Then, I remember thinking how crappy they looked the following season-premier in New England when there was Super Bowl talk at the Bengals training camp that season. They went 4-12 that year.
The Bengals we saw yesterday appear formidable and in total control of their scheme and playbook. The much maligned Andy Dalton looked more than competent leading his his offense and making nice throws throughout the afternoon. Scoring five field goals on the team's first six possessions certainly has its drawbacks, but scoring that often at all is the real take-home message on the day. Nonetheless, Hue Jackson will have to carry on without a major spoke of his offensive wheel, and a dip in production is a likely result. Worry not though, Bengal fan, this team is grown up and ready to win the AFC North again. Even if you don't see it that way just yet.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo via Cincinnati Bengals Facebook page