E. RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A few blanket statements after the Jets put the Bengals to bed in Sunday night's 27-7 preseason loss at New Meadowlands Stadium:
» The progress of a rookie quarterback and a new offense is so tedious that it's going to take patience. It's certainly not points because after Andy Dalton generated his first and only touchdown drive of the season, the Bengals insisted a step forward had been taken from last week's 34-3 loss in Detroit:
"I thought it was lot of positive momentum with the first group," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. "I felt good about that when we took the first group out in the second quarter. I felt good about that."
In one half of work Dalton threw two picks and had a passer rating of 16.4 after completing just eight of 19 passes. Prized rookie receiver A.J. Green dropped by his own count four balls. The first offensive line could only generate 30 yards on 12 carries by running backs after 19 yards were lost on a fumble between Dalton and running back Cedric Benson. And with Dalton in there the Bengals committed three pre-snap penalties.
Yet Dalton and the line stood in against the varying Jets blitzes and were able to steady themselves in the rain to move the ball in the second quarter. He didn't get sacked after getting drilled in Detroit and he had his skein of three straight third-down passes snapped when Green couldn't hang on to a ball over the middle in the drive that ended Dalton's night at the Jets 49. It was fitting, really, since a TV count had Dalton the victim of five drops.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth felt like the pass protection came away much improved from what happened last week and that weathering Sunday's opening debacle showed progress.
"I don't think he got touched in the first half, so that's always a positive thing. To keep him clean and not get him touched so that was definitely a positive up front," Whitworth said. "I think we wish we got a little more in the running game but you know that big negative play hurt really bad.
"I know we picked up everything they brought and that's a positive. Definitely (a step forward). As bad as we started, to go forward and get a scoring drive I thought it was big."
Dalton took solace in the fact he was able to stare down Rex Ryan's changing blitz looks well enough to check into good plays and protections at the line of scrimmage.
"I feel like I was seeing things pretty well. I felt I made some checks that helped the team and put us in positions to get first downs," Dalton said. "Again, it wasn't good enough. There were some miscues early on and I have to come out and play better."
The hang-your-hat-on play in this one came on third-and-seven from the Jets 11 when Dalton checked to a play with Ryan bringing the kitchen sink and fired a frozen rope to wide receiver Jordan Shipley over the middle at the 1-yard line that set up running back Brian Leonard's one-yard run two minutes into the second quarter.
"What I saw was zero coverage. Everybody was man-to-man and they were blitzing everybody else and I got us into that play and Shipley made a heck of a catch," Dalton said. "I was getting more comfortable with what they were doing and I was able to get us in the right places."
Still Lewis needs more accuracy from Dalton. There may have been five drops, but there were also balls not thrown on time or target.
"I think it was a great experience for our young quarterback; playing against the looks and the things he was getting," Lewis said. "But we've got to do a better job of helping him. We have to catch the football when it's in our hands. He's got to be more on point and accurate with the football in his throws. We had two turnovers there with interceptions and then we had a dropped ball on an exchange that put us way behind the eight ball. We have to do better in those situations."
» The Bengals run defense is much further along than it was last year at this time:
Yes, Bengals nemesis Shonn Greene didn't play at running back Sunday night, but LaDainian Tomlinson did and the first team defense shut down one of the NFL's elite running games on 16 yards on 11 carries in the first half. That came after the entire defense allowed just two yards per carry in Detroit.
Big plays came courtesy of the front four, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, and another mega effort by safety Reggie Nelson. He had one tackle for a loss (combining with defensive tackle Domata Peko) and knocked down a Mark Sanchez third-down pass on a blitz as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer enjoyed matching Ryan heat for heat.
"It's a measuring stick. That's a good sign to do that against a running game like the Jets have," said safety Chris Crocker. "We're coming along. We're not there yet. We've got a lot of new guys ... but we're making progress."
» Dalton and Green, the crown jewels of the Bengals youth movement, are turning into stand-up guys. Dalton admitted there were times he couldn't get the grip he wanted on a wet ball and said his overthrown ball to wide receiver Andre Caldwell down the middle that resulted in an interception was because it didn't come out of his hand the way he wanted.
But he also said, "We can't make the weather an excuse. Both teams had to play in it. We just were not quick to start off. It took us a while ... I've got to come out better."
Green was shaking his head in the locker room. After catching everything all training camp, his deflection over the middle led to Dalton's first interception, then a red-zone pass went through his hands at about the 5, and then he couldn't haul in Dalton's last third-down pass over the middle as he lost the ball before he hit the ground after breaking free from cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
"I should have had them all," said Green, who finished with one catch for eight yards despite getting five balls thrown to him.
"I've played in the rain before. It wasn't that, it was a lack of concentration," Green said. "Those are catches I make with my eyes closed. It was really frustrating. It doesn't happen to me much."
Dalton unleashed his first pass to Green over the middle and while it was high, it was catchable and it went off his hands into the hands of Jets safety Eric Smith. And that was after he beat All-Everything cornerback Darrelle Revis to the opening.
"It was in the back of my mind. I think I started to fight it," he said of the tip. "No excuses. I've got to make the play. I've got a long way to go before I get to where I need to go to help this team, so I need to keep working."
What bugged Green about his matchup with the ballyhooed Jets corners is he felt he gave himself opportunities.
"It was great going against some of the best corners in the league," Green said. "I felt I got open with them, but I just have to make the play. ... The greats have their bad days. I'm going to go back to work."
» The Bengals are razor thin. For the second straight game their backups on both sides of the ball got smoked in the second half:
The second-line defense began the slide at the end of the first half when it let Sanchez go 99 yards for the touchdown that gave the Jets a 17-7 halftime lead. Lewis is trying to find guys that can back up at corner and safety and he was livid after a blown coverage in the secondary with young safeties Rico Murray and Robert Sands led to tight end Dustin Keller's 43-yard catch from Sanchez from the 1-yard line. Then wide receiver Plaxico Burress skated by cornerback Fred Bennett for Sanchez's 26-yard touchdown pass that beat Murray's blitz by a hair.
"That was against guys where a lot of them won't be here," he said.
Crocker took note of what happened after the starters left.
"The first unit, we did what we were supposed to; we got stops before chains," Crocker said. "For the guys that are backups, they have to make plays too. At the end of the day, they (backups) are trying to make this team. I was a little disappointed from that standpoint. The guys that could possibly be starters, at any minute (didn't) put their best foot forward tonight."
» Punter Kevin Huber continues to have the best training camp of his three seasons:
With the offense threatening to blow this thing up in the first quarter, Huber and the defense kept things together. He nailed a 77-yarder and then came back late in the second quarter to pin the Jets on the 1 from the Bengals 49 on a kick downed by backup wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. Huber had to punt nine times, and he put four inside the 20 without any touchbacks while averaging 47.1 yards with a 43.4 net.
"I thought today in the kicking game we made some strides forward," Lewis said. "It'll be interesting to see it on tape and hopefully I'll feel that way after that. I thought Kevin again had a very good night. Unfortunately, (he got) too much work."