The first two preseason games of week two are in the books with a few surprises already.
First, the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome last night, 24-19. I watched most of that game and the Bengals look to be for real indeed.
As the starters battled in the first half, it became more and more apparent that the Bengals are picking up where they left off last season. While both teams were tackling extremely well for the early preseason, that’s to be expected of a veteran defense like the Falcons. The fact that the Bengals looked every bit as good should be encouraging for fans starved of a winner up until last year. Oh sure, they’d have a season here, a season there that they would do okay, but they appear to finally be putting some good pieces on the table.
Second-year pro A.J. Green looked like the top-ten WR that I believe he is. His ability to separate almost at will was on display, and his incredible hands, strength, and body control were all shown off on a 50-yard TD strike down the right sideline from supposedly candy-armed QB Andy Dalton as Green pushed, twisted and turned his way across the goal line before falling out of bounds on the good side of the pylon.
The play also showed that Andy Dalton has plenty of arm to get things done in the NFL, if he hadn’t proven it last year. Rookie WR Mohamed Sanu added a 12 yard touchdown reception from Bruce Gradkowski in the second half.
Injuries have already bitten the Bengals, which makes their strong showing even more promising. Former Panther and starting Bengals’ left guard Travelle Wharton was lost for the season in last week’s game against the New York Jets, while rookie Kevin Zeitler is starting at the right guard spot. TE Jermaine Gresham had a nice catch and run, but apparently got his foot caught in the turf on the tackle and awkwardly fell to the ground. He did not return, but the injury doesn’t appear to be serious.
Defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap will miss the entire preseason with a sprained knee and his status for the game one opener is questionable. First-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick, a CB from Alabama, is in a similar situation.
The good news is that everyone but Wharton should be ready by either the opener or week two, depending on how things go.
As for the Falcons, Matt Ryan hit on 18 of 21 attempts for 174 yards and a TD. He spread the ball around and Julio Jones reminded us that A.J. Green wasn’t the only promising young WR on the field with several nice catches of his own.
The Browns’ victory over the Packers shouldn’t concern Green Bay fans as the Packers have their offense in order and are protecting AR-12 (QB Aaron Rodgers) as much as possible during the preseason. For the Packers, the 2012 preseason is about settling their starters on defense and generating a pass rush.
Cleveland Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden has been named the starter for a few weeks now and went 12 of 20 for 118 yards, but had a would-be interception dropped by Packer LB A.J. Hawk and another dropped by Casey Hayward. Weeden was lucky last night and clearly has work to do. Colt McCoy, now the second-string QB, went 4 of 6 for 58 yards on a long touchdown drive and actually looked better than Weeden. Interesting.
This is more a case of Green Bay’s backup QB, Graham Harrell, playing poorly than anything else. He completed only 12 of 24 passes for a measly 100 yards and 2 interceptions. That’s 4 yards per ATTEMPT and throwing short passes shouldn’t generate interceptions like that. He wasn’t so “lucky” as Weeden and also had an intentional grounding penalty.
The Packers appear to be in trouble if Aaron Rodgers were to ever get injured. No Matt Flynn this year; he’s wearing a different shade of green.
Topics: A.J. Green, Aaron Rodgers, Andy Dalton, Atlanta Falcons, Brandon Weeden, Casey Hayward, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Graham Harrell, Green Bay Packers, Jermaine Gresham, Julio Jones, Kevin Zeitler, Matt Flynn, Travelle Wharton