NFL football is officially here. Some random thoughts about the Bengals' preseason debut Sunday night:â†µ
- I tuned in just before the game began, only to catch the tail end of some kind of promotional flag football game for Madden '11. I saw Kurt Warner throw a touchdown strike to James Van Der Beek. Yes, that James Van Der Beek. 'Twas weird. â†µ
- Speaking of weird: Terrell Owens in Bengals gear. Whoa. Carson Palmer, who appeared unable to handle even a modicum of pressure, targeted T.O. at least four times in his two series. Chad Ochocinco received no looks from his quarterback. It will be interesting to see what happens if one of these egomaniacs goes on a tear for part of the regular season, while the other sees his workload stagnate. Max Starks has already suggested that Cincinnati employ a two-quarterback system, so none of their divas' feelings are hurt.
- Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones looked pretty good in limited action. On one of the first plays, he kept Dallas wideout Miles Austin in check with excellent press coverage. Later, Patrick Crayton managed to overcome Jones' press only due to flawless execution of a timing route. Jones started in place of Jonathan Joseph, who is nursing a bruised thigh. Jones could end up being an excellent nickelback behind Joseph and Leon Hall -- perhaps the best starting cornerback tandem in the league. â†µ
- There were no less than three ex-Cowboys playing for the Bengals: Owens, Jones, and safety Roy Williams, whose presence created even more weirdness, since there were literally times where Roy Williams (receiver, Dallas) was tackled by Roy Williams (safety, Cincinnati). Jon Kitna, ex-Bengal, worked with the second-team offense after Dallas quarterback Tony Romo finished his series.
- Cincinnati's first-team pass rush looked pretty unspectacular against a Dallas line that has reshuffled some pieces in the offseason. Antwan Odom was a non-factor, and the Cowboys picked up linebacker Dhani Jones when he rushed up the middle. Although Romo was somewhat erratic, it had little to do with pressure. â†µ
- Cedric Benson still looks completely capable of plodding along at 4.2 yards per carry again and again this season, assuming his body doesn't break down. (He missed three games due to injury last year and carried the ball a career-high 301 times.) When you're working out of a power rushing scheme, you don't need breakaway speed -- and Benson certainly doesn't have it -- you just need to have vision and decisiveness. Cris Collingsworth, who quickly became my favorite broadcaster last season, put it this way: "[Benson is] slow to the hole, [but] fast through it." â†µ
- It looks like the Bengals will occasionally use a 3-4 front this season. They have some defensive ends who can play as outside linebackers and some linebackers who can play with their hands on the ground. The Bengals' defensive success last year came mostly from excellent play in the trenches and from the corner position -- just a Cover 2 team through and through. We'll see what happens when they get a little fancy with their schemes. â†µ
- A commercial ran for the first game of the regular season: a rematch of last year's NFC championship game, the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints taking on the Minnesota Vikings. (I wonder if The-Old-Gunslinger-He's-Like-A-Kid-Out-There will re-un-un-re-unretire!!!) I was informed that I should start getting excited not just for the return of pro football, but for a halftime show featuring Dave Matthews Band and Taylor Swift. Dave, Taylor, I'mma let you finish, but Creed and Nickleback had one of the best totally crappy halftime shows of all time -- of all time! â†µ