Bengals vs. Broncos: 5 Things to Watch for Cincinnati
The Cincinnati Bengals travel to take on the Denver Broncos in a Week 2 showdown, looking to advance to 2-0 for the first time since 2006. It appears the Bengals will have their rookie quarterback available to them after he suffered a wrist injury in Week 1.
The Broncos enter this matchup coming off a disappointing loss to the Oakland Raiders in which fans voiced their displeasure and screamed for Tim Tebow. Kyle Orton and his Broncos will be looking for a bounce-back performance and a chance to get back to .500.
With a relatively easy schedule coming up, the Bengals have a real opportunity to grow as a football team and get another win in Denver before returning home for their home opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
Here are five things to look for as you watch the Bengals play.
1. Andy Dalton's Development
Andy Dalton was effective in his NFL debut before a wrist injury forced him out of action. After being a full participant in practice yesterday, Dalton is expected to play in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos. In his first half of football, Dalton completed 10 of his 15 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown for a quarterback rating of 102.4
A wrist injury is always a concern on a quarterback, as re-injury is a possibility on any play whether a pass or a hand-off. After being limited Wednesday, it was unclear if Dalton would be able to play, but the question becomes how effective can he be.
More than half of Dalton's targets were to tight ends or running backs in check-down situations. This will most likely continue into next week as Dalton adjusts to the pro game.
The Broncos were successful at limiting Jason Campbell's opportunities to get the Raiders passing attack going. They Broncos held Campbell to 105 yards for the game. The Broncos defense will be a bigger challenge for Dalton.
2. Cedric Benson Against the Broncos Rushing Defense
Cedric Benson carried a lot of weight against the Browns, and will have an even bigger opportunity to do so against the Broncos this week. The worst rushing defense in the league last year, the Broncos picked up right where they left off, allowing 190 yards to the Darren McFadden-led Raiders.
Benson had a solid season debut after a tumultuous offseason in which he spent time in prison as recently as earlier this month. Benson looks to have left his legal problems in the past for now, and has turned the page into the NFL season.
Against the Browns, Benson carried the ball 25 times for 121 yards and a touchdown. He consistently pounded the Browns defense and helped give the Bengals favorable downs and distances. He sealed the game with a late 39-yard touchdown run.
If the Bengals hope to improve to 2-0, they will need an encore from Benson against a very weak run defense. With plenty of opportunities for success, there should be no reason, barring an injury, that Benson does not break the 100-yard marker in this game.
3. Dalton's Favorite Target: Jermaine Gresham
Before leaving the game with the wrist injury, Dalton was heavily relying on the second-year tight end. Of Dalton's 10 completions, half were to Gresham for 36 of his 81 total yards. The pair also connected on a two-yard touchdown score late in the first quarter.
While Dalton is still developing, he will continue to utilize his check-downs and Gresham should continue to see plenty of action while he is on the field. He was Dalton's first read on a number of plays in the first half and that should be the same against the Broncos.
With Dalton frequently looking Gresham's way, the success of the Bengals offense may rely on Gresham getting open and converting his opportunities. He did so against the Browns and will need to have similar success in Week 2.
4. Can They Get A.J. Green Involved?
Against the Browns, the Bengals and backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski took advantage of a sleeping Browns defense and completed a 41-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open A.J. Green for the go-ahead score with 4:28 remaining.
Green was completely uncovered and received a lobbed pass from Gradkowski down the sideline for the score. It was a savvy play, but that was the only catch of the day for the rookie wide receiver.
The Dalton-Green connection failed to produce any results in the first half, as Dalton relied on his check-downs for completions. As Dalton progresses, he will need to get Green more involved in the offense. It will be interesting to see if Dalton looks more for his wide outs against the Broncos.
Getting Green more involved would provide another significant weapon in the offense that would take more pressure off Dalton. A stronger passing attack would also help to free up even more running lanes for Cedric Benson.
5. Team Mentality
It will be interesting to see how the Bengals come out in this game. They will be on the road for a second straight week, but have a realistic chance to start their season with two road wins. That would be huge for the Bengals who host the 49ers in their home opener in Week 3.
For a team that was constantly doubted, a 2-0 start would be sensational and would keep the momentum rolling into some additional winnable games to start the season. A team that was not expected to have very much success will quickly have to learn how to handle it.
After a comeback victory against the Browns, the Bengals need to come out firing and ready to play. This could tell a lot about the football team and the outlook going forward. Will the Bengals take advantage of the great opportunity or succumb to lackluster performances which many predicted?