There are now officially two NFL weeks in the books. At this time, one can start to get a scope of how a team will look going forward into the season. This is not always a sure thing, however. Teams make many changes throughout the year and some take a turn for the better; others for the worse.
Cincinnati seems to be right in the middle of the road in comparisons to other NFL teams. They have beaten one team that they were supposed to beat, and lost to one team they were supposed to lose against. It seems as though they picked right back up where they left off from last season. A few differences have emerged though. The offense is running the ball better these days, the red zone offense is slightly improved, the passing game seems to have taken a step forward, and the defense (as an entire unit) has taken a large step back.
This past week, Cincinnati got into an unexpected shootout with Cleveland and ended up winning by a touchdown. This offense is not built to sustain shootouts and the defense needs to step it up a notch if the Bengals hope to make another trip to the playoffs. With all that being said, let’s take a look at who is getting called out this week.
Last week he was the first Bengal to be called out. This week he is at the top again. This is not a good place to be. It seems that the week of practices after the Baltimore game did virtually nothing for Maualuga as he has been making the same mistakes over and over again. He is generally out of position on running plays as he continues to over pursue ball carriers, and he has been pathetic in pass coverage. He still seems to be playing soft as well and it almost gives a hint that he is afraid to make contact. In one instance, Maualuga had Trent Richardson dead to rights at the line of scrimmage only to slow up and allow Nate Clements to make the tackle from the safety position. That says something about your fire (or lack there of) during the game if you are allowing a much older veteran who is close to the end of his years as a player make your own tackles for you. If Maualuga does not improve, it would be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer tries out either Vontaze Burfict or Roddrick Muckelroy at the Mike position in the coming weeks.
The secondary has shown their true colors in the first two weeks of the regular season. It was a little hazy during the preseason to be able to tell if they would be a sufficient unit, or if they would be very sub-par. It turns out that they are the latter. First off, because of his stupidity on Monday night, safety Taylor Mays did not see a defensive snap. His replacement Jeromy Miles did not fare very well in his stead. Miles seemed to have trouble getting himself into the right position and in one instance left Cleveland wide receiver Greg Little wide open for the easiest touchdown of his career. Leon Hall had a solid game, as well as Adam Pacman Jones. Neither corner was targeted much nor put up great numbers, but this was due to their limited action. Nate Clements and Terence Newman were just easily picked apart by the Cleveland offense constantly allowing easy short to intermediate completions down the field. Cincinnati has now allowed 617 yards passing through the first two games of the season which is a franchise record. This is not a good sign of things to come as the Bengals play many tougher quarterbacks down the road this season.
Maualuga was called out on his own for his particularly bad play, now it’s the rest of the linebackers turn. Yes, it hurts that Thomas Howard is out for the season and now inexperienced players need to come in, but when they did, it was not a good sight. They were not closing the gaps in the running lanes and allowed Trent Richardson to run all over the defense. Richardson was also virtually un-coverable in the passing game as well. The linebackers left him wide open time and time again to end up with some big plays. The Cincinnati linebackers are the biggest reason why Richardson may be named the rookie of the week in week 2. Part of the blame here has to go to the coaching staff, however. Starting Burfict at Will linebacker is not a smart move. Burfict has no experience there and it is a lot to ask from a guy who just barely made the team. Also shuffling around the rest of the linebackers seemed strange. Manny Lawson only played a handful of snaps and Vincent Rey came and went from the game regularly. It seems as though that after the front four, the Bengals have a lot to worry about defensively this season.
For two straight weeks now, second round selection, Still has looked shaky. He is being brought in to give Geno Atkins a break, but seems to be getting pushed off the line rather easily by offensive linemen. This is not helping out the Bengals situation trying to stop the run. With the linebackers out of position on most running plays, and Still getting knocked around, there are gaping holes opening up for opposing running backs right up the middle of the line. Granted, Still is a rookie, but he needs to get his fundamentals down to prevent this from being a continuing occurrence.