One-quarter of the season is already in the books for the Cincinnati Bengals. They have gotten off to a quick 3-1 start, mostly due to their suddenly explosive offense led by Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Their defense seemed to struggle early in the season, but over the last two games they are finally finding their rhythm.
The Jaguars have been Bengal killers in the past asJacksonvilleholds an overbearing win/loss record against the club. The Bengals would not be denied this year, however, and finished with a convincing 27-10 victory. There were more pros than cons in this game, but there are still areas in which Cincinnati needs to improve. Let’s take a look at the all-around team to see who is being called out this week for their performance.
Four weeks, four times being the first player called out. This is not a good sign for the Bengals’ middle linebacker. The same issues each and every week plague Maualuga. Over pursuit on the running game, not being able to get off of blocks, lacking in pass coverage, blitzing very poorly, playing soft and not being in command of the defense have been trademarks for him all season long.
If one were to watch Ray Lewis play, or even the recently retired Brian Dawkins, you may notice the way they get their teammates not only lined up correctly, but are also vocal leaders of the defense. They rally their teammates and never hesitate to get vocal when the team needs it. Those are the qualities that a defensive leader should have. Usually this is the middle linebacker’s duty as the quarterback of the defense. The Bengals do not have that with Maualuga and it is most certainly one of the key reasons they have not played well as a unit lately.
There has recently been a great amount of uproar from Bengaldom about the slacking Maualuga. This is his chance; the ball is in his court. Let’s see if he can prove everyone wrong before his contract expires at the end of this season.
Welcome back, Mr. Crocker. He signed back with the Bengals after not having played an NFL snap in eight months since the Bengals loss to the Texans in the 2011 wildcard playoff game. Most Bengals fans remember him solely from that game and his poor performance. Many of us have forgotten what a great leader he was on the field and how generally steady he was able to play throughout an entire season. Well, everyone was reminded of that on Sunday. Crocker worked his way into the defensive lineup mostly as a nickel corner and recorded the team’s first interception of the 2012 season. He was also out there helping his players getting lined up correctly in certain packages. Let’s all hope that Rey Maualuga took down some notes as he watched Crocker’s performance.
Great play all around by the defensive line. Maurice Jones-Drew who was figured to be the biggest thorn in the side for the Bengals on Sunday was held to under 40 yards rushing. The Bengals’ run defense stepped up in a big way and deliveRed Jacksonville a knockout punch by forcing Blaine Gabbert to try to beat them by throwing the football. Speaking of Gabbert, the defensive line had yet another spectacular day getting after the passer. Gabbert was under constant pressure and was sacked a number of times, led by Geno Atkins’ two. This line is only getting stronger since the return of Carlos Dunlap, and if everyone can remain healthy, they will be the strongest point of the Bengals’ defense for the remainder of the 2012 season.
Burfict has a tremendous game on Sunday. He was great in his lane while stopping the run, he showed some great pass coverage skills, and he recorded his first ever NFL sack. He was simply all over the field making plays for the entire game. This could have very well been the coming out party for Burfict as he continues to develop into a very solid NFL linebacker even though he is not playing at his natural position. It may make you wonder: what could happen if Burfict were given the opportunity to start at middle linebacker?
Blaine Gabbert isn’t near one of the league’s elite quarterbacks; he isn’t even one of the league’s average quarterbacks. There was a concern before the game, however, that Gabbert may have a breakout performance against the severely injured Bengals secondary. Leon Hall missed his second straight game, Nate Clements was out, Jason Allen was out after having only started one game this season and Dre Kirkpatrick has yet to take the field. This left the starting two cornerbacks Adam Pacman Jones and Terence Newman; two corners that were signed to one-year deals over the offseason. The entire secondary stepped up though, and delivered a great performance. Their effort shows in the extremely dismal numbers that were put up by Gabbert against them.