AJ Green made his first appearance of the preseason. He had three catches for 42 yards, and made it look easy while doing it. Green's ability to get open and catch everything thrown his way makes Dalton's job a lot easier, though Dalton and the offense still has quite a bit of success without Green in the first two games anyways.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished with 5 carries and 5 yards, showing that he will really only get you what's blocked at this point. He is automatic on short yardage plays still, converting one again last night. His pass protection is another thing that he has over Gio Bernard, who wants to prove that he can be an every down back. It's apparent that Bernard is a more talented runner and receiver, but until Bernard figures out pass protection, he won't fully take over the starting spot from Green-Ellis. Remember, health of the quarterback is more important than anything.
Jermaine Gresham continues to prove he is one of the best tight ends in the league -- once he has the ball in his hands. Gresham led the league in yards after catch last year and it looks like Gruden plans to use Gresham in the same way again. Screens and short passes to Gresham should be utilized heavily this year, so Gresham can run all over the small defensive backs and defenders.
Marvin Jones has been excellent at getting separation and catching the football so far this year, but fighting for extra yards cost him and the team yesterday. After a long drive, Jones coughed up the football within the five yard line of the Dallas end zone. Lesson learned for Jones, who was tied up by multiple defenders. Sometimes you just need to squeeze the life out of the football until you finally fall down or the whistle is blown.
Brandon Tate had been doing well as a receiver through the first two games, but he finally showed up in the return game last night. Jerry Jones was slapped in the face by pure karma. The first punt by the Cowboy's Chris Jones hit the mega scoreboard, forcing a re-punt. Then, Brandon Tate took the re-punt 75 yards to the house. Boos were heard in Cowboys Stadium.
Andy Dalton finished his short night going 12/16 for 113 yards and an interception. Dalton generally did well overall, but the interception was a glaring mistake. He tried to hit Sanu deep down the middle, but Dalton wasn't able to step into his throw. Nonetheless, it was both a poor throw and poor decision. The defender was right in front of Sanu the whole time. Dalton continues to show both the good and the bad every game. He certainly needs to improve his consistency.
Cobi Hamilton had an up and down day. He fumbled the ball fighting for extra yards on an endaround. Then he made up for it by diving for a touchdown on a bubble screen later in the game. It's clear that Hamilton has a unique skillset (size/speed) that the other bubble receivers (Ryan Whalen and Dane Sanzenbacher) don't have. If Andrew Hawkins is the 4th receiver and Brandon Tate is the 5th, Hamilton is fighting for only 1-2 spots with Whalen and Sanzenbacher. Whalen and Sanzenbacher recorded a catch in the game, but Dane elected to return a deep kickoff and surprised everyone with a 53-yard return.
Josh Johnson has definitely established himself as the Bengals backup QB, considering John Skelton didn't even play in the game last night. Johnson hasn't run away with it though, because he continues to make poor decisions late in the game protecting the football. The Bengals must be uneasy about their backup QB situation.
Orson Charles and John Conner got a combined seven snaps. Is fullback being removed from this team entirely? We will see.
Emmanuel Lamur got the start at Strongside linebacker in place of James Harrison. Lamur is the first backup behind both Harrison and and the inside linebackers. He isn't a threat to take Vontaze Burfict's job or James Harrison's, but Maualuga's starting spot might not be safe. Keep an eye out. We also still don't know how often the Bengals will use the nickel this year, where Burfict and Lamur are likely to be the only two linebackers.
Dre Kirkpatrick got literally exposed last night. It started when he was forced to matchup against one of the best receivers in the league - Dez Bryant. Kirkpatrick's initial problems were mostly related to not turning and playing the ball. He was close to Bryant each time, but he was flagged for pass interference on one play, then gave up a touchdown to Bryant when he didn't play the ball early enough. Bryant just went up and got the ball first. Later in the game, the Cowboys backup receivers continued to beat up on Kirkpatrick. They mostly used crossing routes or comeback routes to beat Kirkpatrick. Then Kirkpatrick missed a tackle on a Cowboys touchdown later in the game. Definitely a game he wants to forget. Fortunately, Kirkpatrick is only the 4th or 5th corner on the team right now. He has time to learn and adjust. Maybe one day he'll be able to replace Terence Newman as the second starting corner. But not yet.
Wallace Gilberry continues to prove that he is a great backup behind Michael Johnson. Gilberry is one of the best pass rushers on the team in terms of pressure per snap numbers. He also consistently makes hustle plays and is always near the ball. Yesterday he forced a fumble when he punched the ball out of DeMarco Murray's hands. Gilberry is a playmaker.
Dontay Moch was used a lot last night and he was able to record a sack late in the game. He flashes potential, but it hasn't been consistent enough. Right now, he is the odd man out of the defensive end battle. He is the sixth guy behind Johnson, Dunlap, Geathers, Gilberry, and Hunt. Fortunately, Moch is eligible for the practice squad. Let's hope he clears waivers.
The backup defenders showed why they are backups last night. The defensive line got ran all over later in the game, making it hard for linebackers JK Schaffer, Vincent Rey, and Jayson DiManche to do their jobs. DiManche's play in run defense concerns me, he isn't quite physical enough at the point of attack yet. With the first four linebackers already set, there is a battle for only two or three spots. Schaffer, Rey, DiManche and perhaps Sean Porter are involved in this battle. Porter may be headed to IR with a torn labrum. We will see.
Devon Still and Margus Hunt got the most snaps of any defensive lineman on the team. Still made a couple plays and Hunt got a sack late in the game. They need the experience, considering they are both backups who have already made the team. Still is fighting with Brandon Thompson to be the first backup at defensive tackle. Hunt might not get a lot of snaps with the actual defense this year. He still has a ways to go, though it's nice to see his tools at work. Hunt's strength and size is impressive. When he gets his pad level down and adds to his pass rushing repertoire, he could be great.