August 21, 2009
Winning Secondary As Player Tryouts Abound
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- Tom Brady finally got his first post-injury hit, and Nick Kaczur's job security is perhaps imperiled.
Tyrone Wheatley got picked on in the second quarter and gave up the only touchdown of the game, along with lots of other good gainers.
Laurence Maroney may be more responsible for the resurrection of Fred Taylor's career than Taylor himself may be.
Kevin O'Connell looks to have a release so slow that in that same span of time, Dan Marino could snap off maybe three quick tosses.
Patriot fans who came out to Gillette Stadium Thursday night to watch an exciting game and a continuation of the nice opener in Philadelphia last week perhaps left the stadium wanting their money back. Neither the Patriots nor the Cincinnati Bengals looked bent on winning the game, and the contest turned into a fourth preseason game rather than a second. Certain players on both sides were featured, and the result was a very dull and lackluster 7-6 Cincinnati win. It was one of those games where the Red Sox outscored the Patriots on the same evening, but in this case you didn't mind unless you care deeply about the philosophy of charging fans full admission price for a meaningless game.
Brady played only the first quarter and survived a couple of scares against a Bengal defense which was obviously more energetic and together than the dispirited Eagle defense they faced last week. Brady completed 4 of 8 for 57 yards, but was under much more pressure than last week. Brady was hit twice, sacked once, but emerged from the game unscathed, though the fan base might have been freaked out at times.
On the third offensive play of the night for the Patriots, Brady was forced to throw away a pass deep because linebacker Keith Rivers came in on a pass rush and flung Brady to the ground just after he released the ball. On the first play of the next offensive set, Robert Geathers blew by Kaczur and clobbered Brady, knocking him for a seven-yard loss. The tackle was basic, arms wrapped around Brady, nothing dirty nor dangerous. But it was the first real "hit" Brady had to take since his return from season-ending knee surgery last season. Brady went on to finish the quarter, never leading his team to a touchdown.
Kaczur is being challenged in camp this year by fourth-year veteran Ryan O'Callaghan and rookie Sebastian Vollmer. If there was one position on offense which is unsettled, the right tackle position would be it unless Benjamin Watson plays himself out of a tight end job. On the sack, Geathers simply ran around Kaczur, almost too easily. Kaczur is perhaps better known more as a "road grader", and players like Kevin Faulk are frequently asked to pick up blitzers from the right side. On the play, Taylor was the only setback and is not being brought in for his blocking acumen.
The second quarter featured the Bengals going after Wheatley on what would be the only touchdown drive of the evening. J.T. O'Sullivan, who started at quarterback in place of the injured Carson Palmer, found Chris Henry three times for 14, 13 and 24 yards, all of them to the left, all of them right at Wheatley. The last one, a 24-yard touchdown pass, came with the Bengals facing a fourth down and 17 and unable to kick a field goal because Shayne Graham was nursing a sore groin. O'Sullivan was able to withstand a six-man blitz, leaving Wheatley in single coverage on Henry. Henry simply ran right past Wheatley and hauled in a perfect toss for the score. Two plays prior, O'Sullivan hit Jerome Simpson for an 18-yard touchdown pass, again with Wheatley in coverage. But Simpson was guilty of offensive pass interference, so the score was taken off the board.
The cornerback competition is very keen, given how bent the Patriots are in tightening up the pass defense in 2009. Wheatley is currently at the bottom of the depth chart, and played like it. Darius Butler, who had a significantly better game than Wheatley, and Leigh Bodden were the starters in this game. Wheatley may have played himself out of a job with his poor performance in the second quarter.
Another player who continues to play subpar is Laurence Maroney. Taylor was supposed to be the featured back of the evening, and managed 26 yards on 7 carries. But Maroney, who came in for one series in the second quarter against the top defensive unit for the Bengals, rushed for only six yards on three carries and showed the Patriots nothing. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a much better game, but his work was in the second half against the Bengal junior varsity.
In comparison, it seems that Taylor is more adept at hitting holes than Maroney. Maroney prefers to juke behind the line of scrimmage to try and find holes, where Taylor ran more downhill and on occasion found some daylight, albeit not an awful lot. Maroney sometimes has shown an ability to run hard, but he still seems like his past injuries are in his head and looks too tentative out there. Taylor's only problem is his age. Green-Ellis is not a top tier back and will never be, but right now he is a better option than Maroney.
The Patriots gave a little bit on defense, but played hard throughout the first half and at times showed a base 4-3 formation, like last week in Philadelphia. Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour anchored a solid defensive front, locking down Cedric Benson and the Bengal rushing attack when it seemed like Benson, the former Bear, would punish the Patriots all night long. The Patriot defense totaled four sacks, one by Tully Banta-Cain, who played a fairly good game in spot duty at outside backer. O'Sullivan didn't seem to try and attack the Patriot secondary, but that cannot mask the nice job by the front seven on defense for the Patriots.
Unlike Philadelphia, Cincinnati was ready for Julian Edelman, last week's surprise star for the Patriots. Punter Kevin Huber consistently kicked away from Edelman, negating any chance for a long return, and the Kent State rookie finished with only two punt returns for nine yards. Offensively Edelman had only one catch for three yards. As Bill Parcells was given to say, "Let's not put this kid in Canton just yet!"
The Patriots didn't seem interested in winning this game, but generally, neither did Cincinnati. Next week in Washington, the Patriots will try and open things up and see how really ready they are for the regular season. The third preseason game is usually the dress rehearsal game, so look for more of Brady and more variety in both offensive and defensive sets and playcalling. As for the Bengals, the fact that Chad (Ocho Cinco) Johnson kicked their one extra point and handled second half kickoffs, all the while going for it on fourth down three times (successful once, the touchdown to Henry) didn't portray a team with winning as a high priority.
The fans should have stayed home and watched this one on TV, except that the Red Sox made for much better watching. Bill Belichick was the only one who really needed to watch this stinker of a game, and we can all assume he saw what he needed to see.
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