There is very little to be excited about after the Bengals were thoroughly beat down by Baltimore at home to open the season. Here are your winners and losers from week one:
Giovani Bernard: Less than 10 months removed from tearing his ACL, Giovani Bernard looked 100% and like his old self. He had the biggest play in the run game (23 yards) and well as the pass game (39 yards), as he racked up 8 touches for 79 yards on the day. Cincinnati struggled to move the ball with any consistency, but Bernard showed flashes of his pre-surgery self. The most impressive move was on his 23-yard run where he left Ravens LB Kamalei Correa on the ground after a sharp cut.
The Secondary: Although it wasn’t the toughest of tests against Joe Flacco, who couldn’t throw the ball more than 10 yards, the Bengals secondary looked the part of a potentially dominant force throughout Sunday’s matchup. With the exception of the 48-yard Maclin touchdown where Dennard was picked by two players, including teammate George Iloka, the secondary was stout. There is a lot to be excited about from William Jackson, who was playing in his first game of his NFL career after missing all of his rookie year. When Adam Jones and Shawn Williams get back into the mix, this unit has talent and depth to disrupt many of the below average QBs they play this season.
Vontaze Burfict: While on his Roger Goodell-mandated vacation, Burfict retweeted two of the game full of dirty hits from the guys in black and yellow. Ryan Shazier speared a sliding DeShone Kizer with the crown of his helmet, and Roethlisberger went full Kurt Angle and started grabbing ankles of a defender. He did miss a blatant head-hunting exposé from William Gay, which earned a flag, as did the Shazier hit. Expect fines to come their way, or not, since they will just be considered tough football hits.
Andy Dalton: Andy stunk. And the everyone knew it. Dalton threw four interceptions and made bad decisions most of the day. The last time he played this poorly, he responded by throwing three touchdowns and posting the best passer rating of his career at the time. In fact, the last two instances where he threw at least three INTs, he has responded with quarterback ratings of over 125. Let’s hope he can respond that way Thursday night.
Offensive Line: The biggest fear all offseason came true yesterday afternoon. Dalton was under pressure all game long, which definitely contributed to his interceptions. When you have to get rid of the ball so quickly and the defense knows it, they can adjust by jumping and trying to deflect passes. Two of the four INTs were on deflections. On top of the poor play, Trey Hopkins suffered what is to be believed as a “major injury.” TJ Johnson will be getting the start at guard Thursday.
Ken Zampese: I was not all over KZ after last season, which was his first as the OC. I still won’t put a ton of blame on him, but he has to do more to help out his QB. It isn’t easy to call plays where you have to get the ball out of the QBs hand immediately because of poor O-line play. You can’t compare him to Gruden or Jackson for that fact alone. They never faced the problem that Zampese is. But, he must do more to help out Dalton, such as moving the pocket on a more consistent basis.
Tyler Eifert: No player has as much on the line as Eifert this season. His rookie contract is up and he must show the Bengals, and the rest of the league, that he can stay healthy and be a dominant player. While no injury occurred, Eifert recorded just one catch on the day. Maybe that wasn’t his fault, but he still loses with every one catch game.
Fickle Fans: Way too many “Bengals,” fans said, tweeted, typed something about A.J. McCarron starting. This is embarrassing. Andy Dalton has a bad game to start the year and now McCarron is the answer? I’m sorry. A.J. has shown me nothing to prove that he is even close to Andy. He played game manager the final 5 games of 2015, and has been poor each of the last two preseasons/training camps. 14 is the quarterback and he will bounce back.
The best part of the weekend is that the Bengals don’t have any time to dwell on the loss. They get back at it Thursday Night, as they host the Texans. They better get off to a good start or PBS will turn on them quickly.