The Cincinnati Bengals’ secondary will be put to the test when they face Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this Sunday.
Already under criticism before the season began, Cincinnati’s defensive backfield failed to stop Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s fourth quarter comeback the opening week of the season. Now they must face the 2011 NFL Most Valuable Player coming off one of the best games of his career.
Last week, Rodgers threw for a career-high 480 yards, helping his team jump out to a 31-0 lead against the Washington Redskins. While the Packers (1-1) lost starting running back Eddie Lacy to a concussion in that game, James Starks came off the bench to rush for 132 yards on only 16 carries. He became the first Packer to rush for more than 100 yards in 44 games.
The fact that Green Bay’s offense seems to be clicking on all cylinders is not a good sign for the Bengals (1-1) who are not yet where they want to be defensively. In addition to the questions in the secondary, the Bengals have not been able to get as much pressure on opposing quarterbacks as they would like. After totaling 51 sacks last year, Cincinnati has only two sacks so far through two games.
It is not like the Bengals have not had favorable match ups. In week one they faced a Bears offensive line that featured three new member and last week faced a Steelers unit that had just lost its starting center in Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey. Look for defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to mix up his schemes to apply pressure on Rodgers.
On the other side of the ball, Green Bay’s secondary was shredded in week one by Colin Kaepernick (412 yards and three touchdowns) and then allowed Robert Griffin III, fresh off rehabbing an ACL injury, to put up solid numbers as well (320 yards, three touchdowns and one interception). Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton may not be as physically gifted as the two aforementioned signal callers, but he does have more weapons.
In addition to Pro Bowlers A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham, Dalton now has rookie tight end Tyler Eifert to throw to and a potential superstar-in-the-making in rookie running back Giovani Bernard. Both players were a big part of the Bengals 20-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday. Dalton must take advantage of his tight ends and running backs until he can improve his accuracy down the field and maintain his composure against superior opponents.