First Impressions – Bengals @ Lions

| August 15, 2011

All preseason games should be taken with a grain of salt, but if we are to believe that at least the first few series are an accurate portrayal of the teams, the Lions certainly seem to be on the rise while the Bengals continue to be, well … the Bengals.
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Before Cincinnati’s offense was even able to touch the ball, Matthew Stafford had led the Lions to two scoring drives ending with touchdown receptions over Leon Hall. When Andy Dalton finally took his first snap leading the Cincinnati offense, he threw an interception.
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It was a fast start for Detroit and an equally fast (bad) start for Cincinnati, but not necessarily all went right for one and wrong for the other.
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Lions – Three Things of Note
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●  In his only two series of the game, Matthew Stafford looked to be in mid-season form. He led Lions straight down the field on his first series, connecting with Calvin Johnson on a perfect backshoulder throw which Leon Hall had no chance at covering. After the ensuing kickoff was fumbled, Stafford then led the Lions to another touchdown on a pass to Nate Burleson who made a great catch over Leon Hall for a quick 14-0 lead. In his only two series, Stafford was 6-of-7 for 71 yards with his only incompletion coming on a drop off of Jahvid Best’s hands.  If only Stafford can learn to not fall directly on his shoulder when being tackled, the Lions might finally be a serious team to reckon with.
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●  The running game wasn’t all that impressive for the Lions. As a group the running backs ran for 67 yards on 28 carries (a 2.4 YPC average). Jahvid Best started the game and is definitely a dynamic weapon that will be heavily used in the passing game, but after a season that saw him average 3.3 YPC and near the bottom in our Elusive Rating the Lions clearly could use some help at the position. After losing rookie Mikel Leshoure for the season, the Lions quickly signed Mike Bell and Jerome Harrison but they didn’t do anything to impress after carrying 11 times for 13 yards (but given they combined for 429 yards total last year, maybe that shouldn’t be that big of a surprise). Though they should be able to do well without a standout at running back, it would be hard to see them going where they want to go without serious improvement from the players they already have at the position or another acquisition.
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●  One of the more hyped groups headed in to the NFL season was Detriot’s defensive line. Though first round pick Nick Fairley didn’t play due to injury, the remaining starters on the line played into the second quarter. Though there was a stretch where Cedric Benson was gaining good chunks of yards against them, for the most part the defensive line lived up to expectations. On the very first play of the game, Ndamukong Suh made a quick move to generate instant pressure and force an interception. He then nearly had a sack on the next series, but ended up being flagged for roughing the passer after throwing Dalton down after wrapping him up. The biggest standout was Corey Williams who may be out to prove Nick Fairley will have his work cut out if he wants to unseat him as the starter. He was solid against the run and was also able to beat a double-team to get the only sack for the group.
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Bengals – Three Things of Note
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●  With Carson Palmer still retired, Andy Dalton was given the reins to the Bengals offense. After his first snap was a pass that was intercepted, he may have wanted to give the reins back, but he stayed in and put together a respectable few drives. He didn’t make any “wow” throws at any point, but made a lot of good decisions. On the Bengals only scoring drive, Dalton made a number of good decisions proving that he may end up being the guy who can manage a game effectively for the Bengals. His only real bad throw (not counting the interception which was more the result of pressure) was on a third and short where he missed the fullback out of the backfield for an easy first down. Dalton ended the game 11-of-15 for 69 yards with one interception.
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●  Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has said about A.J. Green, “He’s everything you want from a No. 4 overall pick, and then some.” While there wasn’t any moment in this game that Green mesmerized, he showed some flashes that make me believe him capable of at least a 1,000 yard receiving year. Green was targeted deep on the first pass that ended up being intercepted which was his only real deep target, but in the next two drives Green caught four balls all on short targets but two of which resulted in first downs. Overall (in only two quarters of play) A.J. Green ended with 4 receptions for 29 yards which isn’t earth shattering, but proved strong enough to get some additional yards after the catch and ability to make a crucial catch even in tight coverage.
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●  Probably the best showing for the Bengals in this preseason game was Cedric Benson. After Dalton’s first pass was intercepted, the Bengals opened the next drive with five straight Benson runs that went for 6, 5, 16, 4, and 4 yards respectively. He only ended up playing to the end of the first quarter, but was ended with six carries for 37 yards (6.2 YPC). In a USA Today article earlier in the week, Benson said that he likes to make the best of any situation and to him playing in Cincinnati “[isn’t] so bad.” Seems like the Bengals could use a few more players with his attitude.
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The final result was a 34-3 trouncing of the Bengals, but more importantly was the fast start by the Lions signaling they may be on the right track while the Bengals still appear to be lost in the woods.
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Follow Rodney on Twitter: @rodneyhartjrPFF … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed as well: @ProFootbalFocus
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  • harryddunn

    Great write-up. I also thought Willie Young played a terrific game, and his potential emergence might make the loss of McBride less impactful to our depth at end.

    • Rodney Hart

      I agree, I thought Willie Young displayed some serious athleticism and the potential to be able to fill a role on what promises to be a strong defensive front. Though there were a number of plays where I think that he was neutralized in the pass rush too easily, he made up for it with a few plays where he showed a lot of effort to fight down the line of scrimmage stop a few running plays in their tracks before they were able to get started.

  • maeby

    What’s your take on left safety Amari Spievey? A third-round pick last year, he’s supposedly having a great camp, and flashed a couple times that I saw in Friday’s game. If you don’t mind, what did you see from him in this game?

  • Rodney Hart

    Let’s start with last season: he played 576 snaps and finished with a +1.2 overall grade-not a bad start for a rookie 3rd rounder.

    After you asked your question, I went back and watched Spievey extensively on the first few drives and have to say he showed some pretty good signs. He has all the athleticism to play the position, which is a reason I have always loved cornerback to safety conversions. That said, they played him close to the line more often then I would think they would given his size (5’11″, 195 lbs). That said, I though he played really well. Specifically on the first few drives (into the second quarter) Spievey made 3 solid tackles, and one was on a play where he read the screen early, shed an offensive lineman, and made the tackle on the tight end stopping the play in its tracks-a great play all around.

    In terms of the competition with Erik Coleman, the Lions definitely have more upside with Spievey but Coleman isn’t a bad option to have on reserve.

    • maeby

      Thanks a lot, Rodney. great stuff