Posted: 6:15 p.m.
Five observations from Thursday night's preseason opener.
(Or, if you think you can cut the team after a night 19 players are scratched, you must be talking to a big white rabbit named "Harvey.")
You can go on about backup quarterback Doug Johnson all you want, but he didn't exactly have the '75 Steelers draped around him Thursday. Or even the '06 backup Bengals for that matter.
OK, the Bengals are in trouble if Carson Palmer goes down. But where are they if running back Rudi Johnson, tight end Reggie Kelly, or tackle Andrew Whitworth go down? Not good, either.
With 12 offensive players scratched Thursday and then Kenny Irons going down in the middle of the game, depth is suddenly and alarmingly thin until guys like Willie Anderson, Levi Jones and Tab Perry get back.
Then a guy like Johnson looks better because he's playing with backups instead of the next level. You have to give the guy the benefit of a doubt. As offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski is fond of saying, a quarterback is only as good as the people around him. You have to believe Johnson is going to be better if his cast is better.
2. Is it time to fry the special teams or is it what it is?
Maybe the most irrelevant thing in all of the NFL is the fourth quarter of a preseason game. It's like herding guys into the trenches in World War I as cannon fodder. Somebody has to do it and a lot of the guys that are out there are going to be in another profession next month. So blowing a 16-point lead in one of these things isn't Kimo von Oelhoffen stuff, and when the guys who are going to be on special teams played in the first half, they were solid.
But you'd feel a lot better about it if Shayne Graham made the last kick for the win from 48. Let's face it, it's unnerving to start the year the way you ended last year. With the same filmy, creeping crud of how?
Still, the man did nail his four previous tries, and two were from the high 40s.
Both starting lines looked crisp and ready to go. How much money exactly is left guard Stacy Andrews going to make this year? It just seems like once Palmer is united with wide receiver Bennie Brazell in a game, they'll make some beautiful music together. B-B-Bennie and his jets made one nice run after the catch that was tougher than any Olympic hurdler ever should be.
The outside backers, Rashad Jeanty and Landon Johnson, are good. The two rookie safeties are going to be fine after they get settled. After watching Chinedum Ndukwe cut down that forest of a man known as T.J. Duckett to force a punt by going for his legs, didn't you wonder how many runs weren't stopped like that the past few years?
And as much as I like Kevin Kaesviharn, could he have made Marvin White's diving interception over the middle against tight end Darnell Sanders, or add White's seven tackles on defense and two on special teams? No, you're right, Kaesviharn wouldn't have been part of a blown coverage on an 83-yard pass. But you have to figure that won't happen in November.
Rookie tight end Daniel Coats looks like he can play. So does rookie cornerback Leon Hall even though he gave up some big plays. But the receivers didn't get behind him, he used his brand of physical play to compete, and he met the media in stand-up fashion.
Linebacker Eric Henderson will hit and linebacker Andre Frazier will strip the ball. They've done it for two weeks.
Free safety Madieu Williams flashed back to his rookie form and came up with some nice stops.
And, oh yeah, the first offense is humming. Carson to Chad, Carson to T.J., Rudi for five. It looks push-button easy. Can they lock the starters into one of those storage huts along I-275 and go claim them the morning of Sept. 10?
Chris Henry and Doug Johnson had one more tackle than middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks (0)? Tackles don't mean much and indications are the coaching staff still thinks he'll be OK, but ...
At first blush Henry getting so many reps is exasperating since he's not going to play the first eight games. But if you want to keep other guys healthy, you have to play him.
After doing a nice job trying to upgrade the secondary with youth, speed, and physicality and preaching simplicity during the offseason, it was surprising the defense came out of the box playing soft zones. Can't imagine that is going to be a staple.
Maybe they can experiment with Reggie McNeal at running back. A fine athlete, but he's had the case of the drops this summer at receiver. But a second position switch in as many years? Don't see it.
Just looking at how the roster breaks down, one could make an argument that Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker are fighting for the last spot on the defensive line. Both have showed a lot of promise with the versatility to play both end and tackle, and are superb big athletes. But neither has been able to stay on the field. Rucker was a scratch Thursday after missing all last year with shoulder surgery. Fanene, coming off a bad hamstring injury that engulfed most of last year, looked fairly active Thursday until he had to leave the game with cramps.
5. DeDe Dorsey Fan Club signups
They're coming out of the woodwork, aren't they, with Irons done for the year? But don't get too excited.
After Dorsey sped to 149 yards on 20 carries last preseason (he also had a 59-yard catch), the Bengals tried to hide him on the practice squad and the Colts nabbed him and it doesn't look like he's going anywhere soon.
Although he didn't carry the ball for the Colts last season, Dorsey is being groomed as Joseph Addai's backup with Dominic Rhodes gone. And that's a fairly important spot for the Colts because while they want to give Addai more carries than they did last year, they don't want to pound him a la Edge so Dorsey is looking at five carries or so a game.
And given that the two guys behind him are NFL neophytes in Harvard's Clifton Dawson and the CFL's Kenton Keith, Dorsey is on extremely solid ground. Against the Cowboys Thursday night, he led the team with six carries (for 15 yards.)
Remember, the thinking last Cutdown Day had been if you needed a bell cow to replace Rudi Johnson for a game or two or more, you had to do it with the bigger, more durable Quincy Wilson instead of the 195-pound Dorsey?
Who's to say that's flawed thinking? The Bengals' bid to add speed with smaller, quicker guys in Chris Perry and Irons have blown up with durability issues. When they cut Wilson last year to make room for Perry coming off PUP, Perry only lasted a few weeks.