Game 4 – Browns at Bengals Pre-Game Thoughts
Game 4 – 2008 Bengals Season
Browns at Bengals, September 28th, 2008 – 1pm EST
How will the Bengals Offense Look?
Palmer seemed to wake-up and rekindle his passing relationship with WR Houshmandzadeh, going 27 of 39 for 286 yards with 1 TD, his first of the season. 12 of his completions were to TJ which accounted for just over half the total yards (146 yards). Palmer was under pressure from the Giants rush but seemed to be more in sync with his targets and was more adept in moving out of the pocket to buy time. With Cleveland’s pass rush still searching for some production with only 3 sacks through 3 games, they have defended the pass with limited success, rating in the bottom 3 for completion percentage. Look for Palmer to keep the momentum from the Giants game and have an effective game against a so-so passing D. Oh, and also, we’re not buying the “sore elbow” bit…
Chris Perry finally has hit some sort of groove last week working against a top rushing D. Perry made some moves and found his running lane more effectively, possibly a combination of confidence in his fitness, better blocking and continued dedication to the run in the play-calling. While I disagree with the overload of carries on Perry (I’d like to see Dorsey and Watson get more chances) I am eager to see Perry continue to emerge as the kind of productive back he was supposed to be. If the O-Line can maintain their upward curve of improved play, I think Perry can gash the Browns D for chunks at a time. Running off the right side, with RG Williams blocking down, Whit pulling to seal the LB and Andrews isolating the DE/LB, Perry could have a massive game. Once Perry has put them on their heels, getting Dorsey the ball off a rolling screen will force the Browns to play honest, further opening up the middle to grind it out.
Hot/Cold O-Line vs the Giants:
Four measures: Sacks/Knockdowns /Pressures/Tackles-for-loss.
Sacks – 6 for 41 yards
Knockdowns – 3
Pressures – By our count, 8. Carson also had to pull it down once to run.
TFL – 8, including the 6 sacks.
While the sacks obviously stand-out as a serious problem, the line actually played better. Better run blocking, better protection in general (except the sacks). Playing against a very proficient pass rush, they were overwhelmed at times and also committed two false starts, once on the first series and once on the final series of regulation both by Mr. Levi Jones. Mr. Jones continues to struggle, which exposes Palmer to blind-side hits. This game marks a quarter of the season and should Levi not shore up his game, the calls for Levi to be benched in favor of Whitworth moving to his natural LT position will be loud.
Last week we pointed out a few stats as to “how to lose a game”. This week we will track the progress from Game 2 to Game 3.
Total Net Offense:
Game 2 v Titans – 215yards
Game 3 v Giants – 347 yards
3rd Down Efficiency:
Game 2 v Titans – 3/13 – 23%
Game 3 v Giants – 10/17 – 58%
Time of Possession:
Game 2 v Titans – 27:26
Game 3 v Giants – 33:15 (including OT)
Game 2 v Titans – 295 yards
Game 3 v Giants – 406 yards (but 5/12 on 3rd down)
TJ has seemingly reengaged in the offense, making several key plays in the OT loss against the Giants. TJ’s preseason is now over and we look for him to be effective against a depleted Browns secondary. On the other hand, Chad Joke-0-Cinqo is still sputtering along with only 8 catches through 3 games. Not quite Pro Bowl level production. What has been positive is the solid play of Antonio Chatman, who versus the Giants grabbed 6 passes for 70 yards, including a 25 yard connection which had significant yards after catch. With Utecht still nursing a bruised sternum, Reggie Kelley pulled down 4 passes, 2 of which were on 3rd downs (1 for a loss). The need for one more option at WR or TE is obvious. Here is to hoping Utecht comes back soon. Which Chad will show up will also be of keen interest.
How will the Bengals Defense Look?
After a great effort to bottle up the Giants Brandon Jacobs (14 rushes for 35 yards), the Bengals front 4 will be challenged to stop a Bengal killer in Jamal Lewis. Not off to a roaring start in ’08, Lewis has had several career days against the Bengals. Further, a weakness over the last several seasons has been the ability to get pressure on the QB. It is again this year, with only 3 sacks recorded through 3 games. Odom has shown the occasional flash of his ability, getting his hands on Collins in the Titans game and coming close to Eli throughout the Giants game. Apart from that, only Peko seems to have the drive and skills to make plays on the line. This is a deficiency that must be addressed. With the Browns planning to feed the line a steady diet of Jamal Lewis, this beleaguered unit has to play better but we all know the talent depth here is lacking.
I think we are seeing something unusual, a relatively healthy and consistent LB group for the Bengals. Against the run and pass, the Bengals backers have been playing better as a unit, reducing the amount of chunky runs (8-15 yards). With a very competent Kellen Winslow on his game, I will be eager to see how he is handled as well as how short passes are defended, especially to RB’s on screens.
Cribbs can be a dangerous player who can score off the short pass. Bnegal backers will need to key on his moves out of the backfield.
Jonathan Joseph is nursing a hurt foot again. Not sure J-Joe is the most durable of players, seeing this is now the third in a series of injuries that have kept him from two or more games. He is needed as well. Despite the adequate job done by David Jones and Simeon Castille against Mr. Eli and his experienced WR’s, I think they are susceptible to big plays and Derek Anderson has the arm to break a game open. With Zimmer planning his blitzes that leave the corners out to fend for themselves with press coverage, Leon Hall and Jones will need to be even more attentive to pump fakes and double moves, the types of plays that Bengals CB’s are usually burned on.
It also looks like Dexter Jackson is out again, with Ndukwe getting the start. Ndukwe had a solid game against the Giants after giving up the big, 51 yard run against the Titans. We look for Ndukwe to continue to play better. Marvin White has played at a high level, enforcing some big hits. I hope the safety play continues to be solid, as this team cannot afford to give up any additional big plays.
With the Browns struggling to make their pass game click, we anticipate Anderson and crew will get Lewis going and then go over the top to challenge the young Jones and Castille. Edwards has had bad hands, which may continue if he gets hit early.
How will the Special Teams Look?
Chatman and Holt continue to deliver solid play in the return game. Chatman has given the punt returns a boost with good vision and quickness, resulting in decent field positions.
The coverage has also been so-so. For so long, the ST return coverage has kept Bengals fans on the edge of their seats. There were a couple of tense moments as Droughns and Bradshaw got to the second level on returns but, fingers crossed, the days of the broken coverage should be behind us.
Cleveland has a very explosive returner in Cribbs who so far has not broken any big returns.
Stadium/Fans – Ahhh, the Battle of Ohio. Nothing to get too riled up about as both teams are 0-3 but this game will get one of them back on track while further pushing the other out of contention.
Weather – Mid-80’s…partly sunny. I think cramps will play a role as PBS gets hot in the sun.
Historically – Bengals lead series 35-34.
Relevant Stat – The Bengals have 1 passing TD this year.
Prognosis: Bengals 31 – Browns 27