Tonight is the second game of several ass-whoopings this season. Now with three weeks of cramming, attempting to improve upon the mistakes from last week, and facing a team that is relatively unchanged and has played as a cohesive unit for the past two years; this game has the potential to be even uglier than last week.
While Reedy and Hobson may try to make this game smell as good as they can on their sites, here at WDR we are going to help you prep what you should be looking for tonight if you are dumb enough to actually watch it.
1. The chess match - This is the second big test to see if Gruden can compete at the NFL level and how much of an upgrade he brings to Bratkowski's shoes. Last week he proved he is not as bad as we feared. Tonight he faces the fat man with a foot fetish, Rex Ryan, who is one of the top defensive minds in the game.
Similar to last week, the key indicator is if Ryan just makes the offense look stupid. If plays are constantly being blown up or we see several three downs and out then we will know Gruden was just another David Shula pick up by Mike Brown. If Gruden is better than we think, he needs to demonstrate the ability to comprehend Ryan's complex scheme and attack its weaknesses and reducing his QB's exposure to the pressure. Unfortunately Ryan's defenses don't have many weaknesses and is why I don't forsee Gruden having a chance in this contest. If they can move the ball by keeping the defense from getting into a rythm, and the first team can actually produce a touchdown, then Gruden may be better than we thought.
2. The Offensive Line - One thing to watch is how soon they replace Nasty if he has a repeat performance of last week. As we pointed out in this article earlier in the week, Livings is not the man for the job at LG. Unfortuantely MFB, again failed to address this hole in free agency allowing his new QB the potential to be fed to the wolves. Hopefully Boling can upgrade the LG spot at somepoint in the season, sooner than later preferably. Regardless, the rest of the OL has a tough matchup tonight. If they are going to have any chance to keep the game competative they need to be able to open running lanes for Benson, and provide time for Dalton. Running the ball against a Ryan defense is possible, but very difficult, but it is susceptable to big plays.
3. Dalton - This is another great game to see if Dalton possesses the intangibles as advertised. This game will be more about testing his intangibles than his ability to throw a football. He is going to face a lot of pressure: both mentally and physically.
For this test, he needs to show that he can comprehend the complex blitz scheme that is going to be thrown at him and do it while under pressure. It is going to be an almost impossible task to complete for a couple of reasons. First, he has never experienced a scheme like he is facing tonight; second, they don't really game plan in the preseason so they probably did not even practice against Ryan's scheme during the week; and third he has now only had three weeks under center to learn the offense. So basically he is attempting to try to lose his virginity without ever being exposed to a smut mag. He has little to no chance of being a smooth operator in this situation.
If he can show that he won't let the pressure get to him and is able to get the ball down field, that is a good sign of his natural ability that we can enjoy before it eventually gets Bengalized. If Dalton can walk out tonight, with a 50% completion rate and only 1 INT, then that will be a good night for him.
1. DL rotation - Same question as last week. Does the rotation that Zimmer created midway through last year's season improve is the primary question. With no major investment in a run stuffing DT or DE during the offseason, and now with the removal of Tank Johnson, the Bengals are counting on their young players to develop and take the next step. Last week, Zimmer focused on stopping the run, and they successfully controlled the LOS holding the Lions to around 2.0 ypc. Tonight they need to prove they can do it against one of the best OL's in the game.
We may also finally get a sense of the 3rd down rotation since Dunlap may get his first game reps of the season. If they can generate pressure against this OL, then the defense may be in better shape then we thought after last week's performance. The stronger the defensive line, the less of a chance they get blown out of games during the regular season.
2. New LB corps - Last week showed Rey may have a top 10 MLB's instincts to take him to the ball. Tonight he needs to back that up since he is going to see a heavy dose of the run. Look for him to attack the LOS once he reads the running play. Again, if the DL can help keep blockers off of Rey and he is attacking, then he may be worth considering for those of you who play in fantasy leagues with IDP's.
Another serious weakness has been covering the middle of the field and opposing TE's. The Jets have torn Zimmer up using their TE's every time we faced them. Tonight should provide another good test to see if the bodies that Mike Brown brought in are any improvement to what we had last year.
3. The secondary is basically a lost cause for the season since Clements is really a downgrade at the CB spot, Jones is still out of the nickle due to his neck injury, and the safety spots have not been seriously addressed by this team for years so they are zero threat in the pass game. Tonight, we should at least see more Zimmer-like agressive press coverage after last week's shitty Breshnahan-like coverage. However it will be fun to see the Holmes vs. Hall battle again when they match up.