It was 1969, Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon that summer and they were still cleaning up at Woodstock when the second year AFL Cincinnati Bengals started three rookies on offense, led by a quarterback named Greg Cook. Though Cook's career would be cut short by a shoulder injury, Bill Walsh would ultimately call him the "greatest quarterback I ever coached."
Today in Cleveland, the Bengals will again start three rookies on offense, led by a quarterback, Andy Dalton. Hopefully Dalton's career won't be ruined by injury, but could Bengals fans be seeing the next Greg Cook starting today?
Like Cook, Andy Dalton will be looking for a fellow rookie as his main target at wide receiver. AJ Green, the Bengals' first round pick also makes his NFL debut. Green has showed moments of awe-inspiring talent on the practice field this preseason, but has yet to really show himself in game action. Having already lined up against Darrelle Revis, I doubt Green will be intimidated by the Browns' Joe Haden, whom he went against several times while he Green was at Georgia and Haden with Florida.
The third rookie will be fellow-Bulldog, Clint Boling, who starts at right guard in place of the suspended Bobbie Williams. Boling has shown himself well in camp and brings versatility to the Bengals' line, being able to play both guard spots and center.
The key to the game, however, rests on the veteran shoulders of Cedric Benson. If the Bengals are to start 1-0, Benson will have to dominate on the ground. He's had a history of doing that against the Browns, and if preseason is any indication, the Browns run defense doesn't look to have improved that much. He must also hold onto the ball, however, and hope that the Bengals defense can keep Cleveland's own chain mover, Peyton Hillis from controlling the clock.
If the Bengals are to pull off the road upset, they must not turn the ball over and control the clock with the run. While the latter could very well happen, the former may be hard to accomplish with a young quarterback in a brand new offense. The Bengals were plagued by turnovers in the preseason. If that trend continues, the Browns have the ability to turn those into points. If the Bengals have to play from behind, then an inexperienced Dalton will be forced to throw against a more aggressive defense.
The Bengals will be improved this season, but today they'll leave Cleveland 0-1. My crystal ball says Browns 24 Bengals 13. The growing pains will be just enough to cost them this early game.Tags: Andy Dalton, Cedric Benson, Cincinnati, Cincinnati Bengals, Clint Boling, Football, NFL, Peyton Hillis