Cincinnati Bengals' Secondary Needs To Shape Up Quickly

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots gains yardage despite the defense of Leon Hall #29 of the Cincinnati Bengals during during the NFL season opener at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Well that wasn't the ideal start.
Nobody expected a 38-24 beatdown at the hands of the New England Patriots. The Bengals need to shake it off really fast.
The Pats were up 17-0 before the Bengals could bat an eyelid. The defense, ranked fourth overall last year, flat-out didn't show up. No team has allowed more points in ’10 than the Bengals.
Tom Brady was able to slice and dice the men in stripes for 258 yards and three TDs. Wes Welker had two TDs and 64 yards and Randy Moss contributed with 59 yards on five catches.
Missed tackles all over the field, blown coverages, and missed assignments galore.
The pass rush was a joke. Brady had time to comb his new hairdo and then scan the field for a few seconds, and the Bengals still couldn't get to him.
The other startling statistic: The Patriots had 173 yards passing in the first half, with 123 of them after the catch. Tackling MUST improve.
The one aspect of the D that was supposed to shine was the DBs. Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall had spectacular seasons in '09. Joseph has been touted as one of the best shutdown corners in the game. Entering the final year of his contract, the expectations were sky high for Joseph to play for a big payday.
Leon Hall wasn't far behind. A year younger, he has been vital to the recent success of the Bengals' opportunistic D. Add a rejuvenated and hungry Adam "Don't call me Pacman" Jones into the mix, and the talent level for the DBs was very high.
They all disappointed on Sunday.
Joseph and Hall both played essentially the entire game and Jones played 23 snaps. All of them were responsible for missed tackles on Wes Welker. They got beat in coverage and seemed like they weren't ready for the opener.
Sure the pressure from the front four wasn't there, but the secondary has to be better. Some of the blame can be placed on defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Maybe he overloaded the defense's brains after months and months of study up for this contest.
"The whole thing was my fault,” said Zimmer this week, shouldering all the blame.
Zimmer says he will simplify things this week against the Ravens as Cincinnati tries to avoid a 0-2 start.
"This week it's on them. This is the last time I take it," Zimmer said.  "They played hard the other day. I had them [thinking about] too many things.  Paralysis by analysis on a lot of things...We forgot to play football. My fault...I thought we were the '85 Bears."
So now the Bengals are in a crappy situation. The preseason media darlings Baltimore Ravens are coming to town for the home and division opener.
Historically the Bengals have done well against Ray Lewis and company. Carson Palmer is 8-3 in his career against the Ravens.
But the Bengals secondary isn’t used to a potent Ravens offense.
While Joe Flacco looked mediocre against the stingy Jets D, the receiving core is much better than in the past. Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh join Derrick Mason and Ray Rice to form quite the explosive offense.
Remember Housh? The third all-time leading receiver for the Bengals that took the big pay day and ran?
Joseph and Hall played against Houshmandzadeh in practice for years and that matchup will be exciting to watch. But the Ravens have only had Housh for a week-and-a-half, so don’t expect the homecoming to be much more than a few catches.
Then again, we all know how competitive Houshmandzadeh is and he might be able to persuade his coaches into a lot more playing time against his former team.
Rice is a small yet bulky load that has great speed. Containing him will be based on the ability to wrap him up the first time. Yards after contact (YAC) are his forte and the tackling will be put to the test. It’s up to the secondary to cheat up on the line and ensure he doesn’t have a 75-yard scamper.
The main concern in the Ravens offense has to be Boldin. He excels in yards after contact and the Bengals better watch out. Minimizing the YAC and better one-on-one coverage will be essential in shutting down the Ravens offense overall.
The sky hasn’t fallen but the Bengals D needs to tighten up. The pass rush needs to play a lot better. The linebackers need to wrap up a guy on first contact. The secondary needs to improve their coverage. So basically all facets need to step it up.
But it’s the DBs that fans expect the most out of. The secondary possesses two of the top DBs in the league and a former first round pick, so it needs to be the crutch of the D. It’s becoming obvious that the D-line will be the weakness of the unit. It’s up to the corners to pick up the slack and keep the ’10 season afloat.