1. This team has the depth to overcome injuries to key players. When Travelle Wharton went down with a knee injury and is likely lost for the year, second-year guard Clint Boling stepped in and filled in admirably. The second-year guard out ofGeorgiahas had a full offseason in the weight room to bulk up, one of his weaknesses coming out of college. Rey Maualuga left early as well, but Roddrick Muckelroy and Vontaze Burfict plated well in his absence.
2. Speaking of Burfict, he will make the opening day roster. He’s worked hard throughout and training camp and has been very coachable, something he wasn’t at Arizona State which led to his freefall in the draft. He made plays on defense and special teams last night, and has displayed a willingness to do whatever it takes to make the roster. Oh, and he picked off Tim Tebow.
3. This receiver group is very talented. No one has really been able to separate themselves from the pack in earning the #2 and slot receiver roles. Hawkins, Binns, Tate, and Marvin Jones all did well last night. Mohamed Sanu had a quiet night, but I won’t judge a rookie based on his first preseason game. Shipley didn’t get in until the end of the game, and didn’t look comfortable at all. If he doesn’t improve over the next few weeks and show some sign of the player he was his rookie year when he led all AFC rookies in ’10 in receiving yards and tied for AFC rookie lead in receptions, he won’t be on the opening day roster with the Bengals.
4. This defensive line is the real deal. The defensive tackles were especially impressive last night. Rookies Brandon Thompson and Devon Still were constantly in the backfield and the Jets had no hope running the ball outside of two big Tebow runs on third-and-long. Dontay Moch played exclusively at DE and notched 1.5 sacks and a fumble. Led by Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins, the front 4 of the Bengals D will be the heart and soul of this team in the run-heavy AFC North.
5. Offensive flow. The 17 points, while low, are was the same amount the Bengals scored in the three previous preseason openers combined. While they finished with only 213 yards, the first-team offense was gashing the Jets’ defense. Green-Ellis broke off a 12-yard run and an 18-yard reception in one drive, followed by aGresham19-yard reception down to the Jets’ 5-yard line. The Bengals looked good against a good defense, but will need to improve their red-zone offense, as they settled for a field goal on that very same drive, something they did all too often last year.