The Cincinnati Bengals versus the Buffalo Bills certainly fit Buffalo's bill on Saturday night. With the Bengals generally depleted of first teamers on both sides of the line, the Bengals were given opportunities to experience and experiment with fresh faces and future team members.
Buffalo was given a similar opportunity through C.J. Spiller, the rookie running back phenom who has emerged as the opening day starter with both the first and second string down with injury.
Spiller did not disappoint but the Bengals did.
(Worry not Bengal Nation, after all, it is only preseason).
(Photography courtesy of the Associated Press; Bengals.com; NFL.com; SI.com; The Cincinnati Enquirer)
Carson ran two wildly successful drives leading to two touchdowns, scattering the ball around to both TO and Ocho, leading to a 142.2 passer's rating. Palmer dispelled the worries that the Ocho and his QB were no longer in-sync and the receiving core showed up to make every Bengals' fan breath a sigh of relief and take a measure of confidence.
It was a simple Palmer to the tight end strike. With that, Jermaine Gresham scored his first NFL touchdown. What was even more special was seeing Reggie Kelly—who will be losing his starting job to Gresham—coming over and seemingly blessing his replacement with class and praise (Upper left of picture). If ever Kelly's reputation showed, it was here in all his humility and wisdom. Later, when Ocho Cinco hauled in his first touchdown of the 2010 campaign, again Kelly and Gresham were on the scene (lower right of picture).
Andre Smith is starting to look the part, just ask eight-year Bills veteran Chris Kelsay who thought he had a beat on J.T. O'Sullivan and found himself blocked into the end-zone two seconds later. Though Andre was up to snuff and clearly looked like he was the biggest player on the field, being with the second and third-stringers, there is a reason why Andre is not with the first team yet.
Smith did block through and follow the play down field, but cautious optimism to a second year player who has shown that he is willing to get caught up in his own image.
(He did look good though and if this is the case, expect Mr. Smith to be starting by Week 6.)
J.T. "Needs to be sent to his ninth team already" O'Sullivan did his usual of holding the ball too long, throwing at least one pass called for intentional grounding, and generally being caught whining to the officials. Despite getting a chance to quarterback the first string offense for part of the second quarter, J.T. looked like he could have been surrounded with an entire pro-bowl team and still not know what to do. Not until he was matched back up with the second and third string late in the first half and through the third quarter did O'Sullivan start to look comfortable (which should make every Bengals fan still worried about Carson's durability even more worried).
The younger Palmer was not much better as rather than bounce back from a penalty which negated a 46-yard run by the backfield, he threw his third touchdown pass of the pre-season. What is wrong with that may you ask? It was his third touchdown THROWN FOR THE OPPOSITION, as Jordan was intercepted for his third pick-six. Remove that embarassing moment and the junior brother Palmer was certainly more consistent than Sully but that is still a long way from being a credible replacement option.
To make matters worse, Ryan Fitzpatrick looked the part of a solid second option at quarterback for the Bills. The former Bengals' second stringer, Fitzpatrick was patient and poised, leading his team like the eight game starter he was the prior season, when injury thrust Ryan into the role. TO was right that Fitzpatrick was the right man for the job—in Buffalo—and certainly was the right man for the Bengals as well.
With Nungent's 54-yard strike which split the uprights—and then some—the kickers exploded back onto the scene and comforted many fans in Ohio (after all, even Ohio State followers were wondering what was happening with their former star kicker). Rayner connected from 32-yards later in the game but Nungent was continually impressive, effecting a touchback with a perfect kick off.
Ced was his typical self, carrying the ball eight times for 50 yards, including one for 20 yards alone, to average 6.3 yards per carry. Ever the player the Bengals' backfield needs and wants, Ced will be expected to continue balancing the offesnive attack.
First, at 8:22 left in the third quarter Brandon Ghee collided with Chad Simpson of the Bills in what was an unintentional helmet-to-helmet hit. Ghee looked like he had hit a brick wall as he went quite literally straight down face-first into the turf. For five anxious minutes, punctuated by a frantic Michael Johnson calling for medical help from the Bengals' sideline followed by the Bengals' team huddled in prayer, the field became a silent tomb of worry and angst. In the end, the ambulance was flagged away and Ghee was able to take the few steps to the cart and be wheeled off sitting in the back with Bengals' medical staff.
Almost seven game minutes later, Adam Jones went helmut first into Bills' wide receiver Donald Jones' back, snapping his neck back and having Adam holding his helmut facing down for a few moments. The player formerly known as 'Pacman,' quickly tried to recover but ended up popping to his feet, wobbling sideways, and then being escorted off by Bengals' medical staff.
Both players have shown tremendous promise, especially Jones with his exciting special teams' game.
Geno Atkins continued to impress as he hauled in another sack. The defense is certainly looking deep even though the game was a less than stellar defensive effort. With injuries currently holding back the Bengals defensive core (some what) for this game, those that did play displayed the talent needed when a full corp returns to the field.
Michael Johnson brought down Trent Edwards with the first team, sacking the Bills' starting quarterback at 10:57 to go in the first quarter. This defensive end to linebacker convert continues to impress with his fleet of feet to remain one of the renewed players making up the defensive core of the Bengals.