ReFo: CIN @ ATL, Preseason Wk 1
However, when you look at the individual elements of what is going on and how guys perform, you can get a feel for players. Whether it’s assessing if they can hang with the starters or deeming that the second team is too much for them, there’s a lot to be learned.
That was the case as the Bengals beat the Falcons to kick off their respective slate of games. Atlanta won’t care an awful lot about the outcome, but there were certainly some concerns that they’ll be looking to address. Similarly, the Bengals got a good look at their Hard Knocks approved roster. Let’s look at the most intriguing displays.
Bengals – Three Performances of Note
This offseason saw the Bengals add a couple of impressive athletes in the shape of Tyler Eifert (+0.4) and Giovanni Bernard (-1.6). Eifert saw 22 snaps in this game, spending one in pass protection and 11 running routes (the others were in the run game). He didn’t receive any targets, but did show himself a willing blocker. He looked a little overmatched when up against Kroy Biermann (Q1, 2:57) or Osi Umenyiora (Q1, 2:19), but he didn’t quit on plays and had some joy against the Falcons’ defensive backs and smaller players.
While Eifert had a quite day, Bernard didn’t use the game as a chance to put pressure on BenJarvus Green-Ellis (+0.5). It’s always a bit tougher running with the reserve offensive line, but he picked up only 2.8 yards per carry and forced just one missed tackle. He’ll have enjoyed his first touchdown (Q2, 0.07), but given the blocks of Dennis Roland and Tanner Hawkinson, I could have run it in.
More Linebacker Depth
Last year the Bengals unearthed some talent via the undrafted free agent market as Vontaze Burflict and Emmanuel Lamur contributed. Could they have found some more? While the performance of Sean Porter (-2.4) was disappointing, both J.K. Schaffer (+2.3) and Jayson DiManche (+2.1) enhanced their chances of making a roster come the end of preseason.
Schaffer spent some time on the Bucs practice squad last year and ran with the second team defense for 36 snaps. His work in the run game really stood out and he led the team with six tackles (the next most was two). What’s more, four of these were for defensive stops. Meaning on the 12 running plays he was in on, a third of them ended with him making a stop.
As for DiManche, he ran with the twos as well, playing in the team’s base formation. He picked up a sack and a tackle for a loss while also standing up Patrick DiMarco at the point of attack (Q2, 7:01) to show he’s not afraid of doing some of the selfless work. His chances, along with those of Schaffer, of making the final roster grew after this.
Battle of the Backups
One of the bigger stories in the Bengals’ camp is about which quarterback will earn the right to backup Andy Dalton. Josh Johnson (+1.1) got the majority of snaps (44) to show what he could do, and while there were some impressive moments, there were the usual bad decisions that cost you football games. As good as his 43-yard scramble at the start of the second quarter was, and as well thrown a ball as his touchdown with 7.44 to go in the same quarter was, there were some questionable decisions like his forcing of a ball over the middle with 10.50 to go in Q2.
Now, if you’re looking for a safer pair of hands then John Skelton (+1.4) isn’t necessarily the first name that pops to mind. His time in Arizona was littered with bad throws and sloppy football. However, against the depth of the Falcons he looked composed, albeit on just five drop-backs. His touchdown may have caught the eye, but his throwaway after avoiding pressure late in the game showed a level of maturity.
Falcons – Three Performances of Note
A Muddled Cornerback Situation
After releasing Dunta Robinson and opting against paying for Brent Grimes, the Falcons got aggressive at the cornerback spot in the draft. They traded up for Desmond Trufant (-2.7) and then selected Robert Alford (+2.8) in the second round. As the grades suggest, both men had differing days, with Trufant turning his 24 snaps into the lowest grade of any Falcon, and Alford converting his 51 into the highest.
So what went wrong with Trufant? It didn’t start well when Jermaine Gresham ran right over him, and four plays later he was lucky not to give up a first down after an overthrow from Andy Dalton. The play that summed it all up (Q2, 12:21) Trufant was coaxed in by a play action and then completely lost his bearings in the Falcons’ zone defense.
While Trufant will need to take some big steps, there were some more positive signs from Alford. He got himself involved in the run game with three tackles (one a tackle for a loss) and didn’t allow any of the three balls into his coverage to be complete, with the high point being a pass deflection in the endzone. It wasn’t perfect, as he too had a moment of confusion (Q2, 0:48) when he was unsure of where to be, but it was a promising start.
Tackling the Tackle Situation
With Tyson Clabo gone and Mike Johnson out for the year I suggested the Falcons might want to look at some veteran options at their right tackle spot. As much as a couple of repeated plays may suggest otherwise, this was an encouraging first effort from Lamarr Holmes (+1.5). He was largely invisible, but when you’re worried about noticing him getting beat on every play, is that not an improvement?
It obviously started badly for him when James Harrison blew right past him for a tackle for no gain (Q1, 13:47). But not many tackles could have stopped such a well timed knifing of a B-gap, and while Robert Geathers would pick up a tackle for a loss on him a few plays later, he can largely be absolved there with Garrett Reynolds treading on his ankles. Instead, he held his own in pass protection (one pressure allowed on a stunt), and made a couple of positive plays in the run game as he got more comfortable. It was something to build on, but there’ll be sterner tests ahead.
Beating Out Banks
A story that may not have a fairytale ending is that of Brian Banks (+0.2). Not with the Falcons at least. He acquitted himself well with the Falcons’ third-string base defense, though he’ll be disappointed with his missed tackle. No, it’s not because of how Banks played but rather how Paul Worrilow (+2.8) took his chance. The linebacker out of Delaware caught the eye of a lot of people watching with his six tackle display that also saw him break nicely on a Josh Johnson pass to force an incompletion.
Atlanta isn’t the most stacked team at linebacker and Worrilow, who also had a special teams tackle, has put himself in contention to capitalize on that.
— He was on the field for only 8 snaps, but Geno Atkins (+2.7) was still the highest graded player in the game. He picked up a hurry, on a ridiculously quick developing bullrush, and a tackle for a 3-yard loss. It’s just so easy for him.
— Drew Davis could emerge as a contender for snaps from Harry Douglas. He was in the slot on 14 of his 20 routes as he looks to solidify his roster spot.
— Quiet day for Margus Hunt. Outside of one impressive bull rush pressure, and another one in pursuit, he got little on his 25 pass rushes, with just one defensive stop on his 14 run defense snaps. The Bengals are deep at defensive end and it would be a surprise to see him puncture that just yet.
PFF Game Ball
We’re going to share this one out between two linebackers who did their future prospects the world of good. Kudos to Paul Worrilow and J.K. Shaffer.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled