The Bengals put up quite the fight against Seattle in week 1. It looked like the year could be a little tough with injuries already piling up on the offensive line, but after a close game on the road there is reason for optimism. Here are five things learned from week 1.
1. Zac Taylor Knows What He’s Doing on Offense
This one is pretty simple and straight forward, but worth mentioning. Zac Taylor did a fantastic job during this game. Knowing that the offensive line was banged up, Taylor elected to throw the ball 51 times to just 14 rushes. Typically, it is best to not abandon the run, but the Bengals averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.
There was a lot of volume in the passing game, but it was efficient as well. Andy Dalton had a career day with 418 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also utilized John Ross’ speed well, as he had 158 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The running game, and some decision-making as the head coach (they punted with over three minutes left on fourth down), will need to be figured out, but it was a great showing by Taylor.
2. John Ross isn’t a Lost Cause
After two years of injuries and sitting on the bench, it was great for Cincinnati fans to see John Ross have the best game in his career. He caught seven of his 12 targets for 158 yards and two touchdowns, as mentioned earlier. He beat the Seattle defense deep a few times, which can only make the offense more dangerous, with defenses paying special attention to him.
Ross still looks to have drop issues, as he dropped a pass when he was wide open with plenty of room to run. If he can hang onto the ball and stay healthy, it looks like Taylor will try to use his speed a lot. When A.J. Green (and Joe Mixon if he ends up missing time) come back from injury the offensive playmakers will give a lot for defenses to think about.
3. When Healthy, the Bengals can Compete
The Bengals played well without a lot of key players in this game. The offensive line was missing Jonah Williams and Cordy Glenn, which left the starting tackles as Andre Smith and Bobby Hart, which has to be one of the worst tackle combinations a team could have. Green was obviously out and Mixon left the game with an injury. That is all just on the offensive side of the ball. They also were without Darqueze Dennard on defense. It is just week 1.
Even without those players, Taylor adjusted the gameplan and was able to compete. Once they regain some health, whether it be later this season or in future years, Taylor has a team to work with. Injuries happen to every team, but the injury bug hit the Bengals hard last year and at the beginning of this year.
4. The Defense is a lot Better
During the broadcast of the game against the Seahawks, the announcers pointed out how bad the Bengals’ defense was last season and rightfully so. Cincinnati seemed to have corrected a lot of mistakes that they made last season and have a mostly healthy defense. That went a long way against the Seahawks.
Seattle doesn’t have the most high-powered offense, but limiting them to just 21 points is a really good effort. They led the league in rushing last season, but managed just 2.9 yards per carry this week. The defensive line deserves a lot of credit. Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap especially had good games with three combined sacks. If the defensive line can stay healthy as well, the Bengals will have one of the most improved defenses in the entire league.
5. Holding Onto the Football is Paramount
There are no moral victories in the NFL, but there was a lot of good in what the Bengals did on Sunday. One thing they did not do well was ball security. They had four fumbles against the Seahawks (although the last one was questionable, to say the least), which completely killed their chances.
Andy Dalton fumbled twice, although the second one was the questionable one, as his arm looked like it was coming forward. Giovanni Bernard had one and Alex Erickson had one on a punt return. The Bengals lost three of those fumbles. While it was good to note that Dalton didn’t throw an interception, Cincinnati needs to start holding the ball high and tight to give their team the best chance to win.