Bengals’ Winners and Losers vs. Ravens
Loser: Special Teams
Yes I understand Adam Jones had a 45-yard return and yes I know Mike Nugent was successful on most of his attempts, but the field goal being blocked bothered me just that much. Throughout the preseason and after yesterday’s game, has the special teams unit had a clean game yet?
The return unit was marred by penalties throughout the preseason, which relentlessly put the offense into difficult starting field positions. This wasn’t the case yesterday, but the jury is still out considering the Bengals had only one return on the day, Jones’ lone attempt which went for 45 yards. Dane Sanzenbacher seemed to have a solid preseason returning kicks and punts, though he did have a fumble at one point (also a TD at another). He didn’t even get a shot yesterday as Tate took all of the touchbacks and fair catches. Maybe Sanzenbacher’s fumble bothered the team just that much and maybe the Ravens just provided little room for returns, but for a team looking for more production from the return game, yesterday provided little clarity for this unit and all its penalties. Here’s special teams coach Darrin Simmons on “wanting more” from the unit this year.
"“Do we want more big plays? Absolutely, we want more explosive plays. I want other coaches to fear us when the play us. I’ve been on the other part of that when they didn’t fear us. When they were laughing. I want the other teams to fear who we put back there.”"
Jones’ return certainly will ring out, but Tate did little to prove his value, which again isn’t necessarily his fault (the new NFL rules discourages kick returns in the first place), but the unit as a whole needs to prove themselves going forward. Eradicate the penalties, provide solid opportunities for returns, and please don’t allow field goal blocks (especially in a tight game). A few years ago, the Bengals had an effective special teams unit, but they’ve struggled to stay at this level in recent years. Hopefully Darrin Simmons can get his troops in line and come away with a clean game next week.