On the national stage of Monday Night Football, the Cincinnati Bengals opened up the preseason by defeating the Favre-less Green Bay Packers 20-17 at vaunted Lambeau Field.
While the eyes of a nation were on newly coronated starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the eyes of Cincinnati Bengals fans were looking for signs of hope that 2008 would be a return to glory for the boys in stripes, counterbalancing the disappointing seasons that were 2006 and 2007.
While very little can be told by one preseason game, several positive aspects shine for Bengals fans. For starters, Chris Perry looked very good against Green Bay’s first and second defenses, recording over forty yards and making an impressive charge into the end zone for a touchdown. What Bengals fans may celebrate more than the performance and the numbers representing his play, however, may be the fact that Chris Perry logged a significant amount of playing time and did not get injured. He didn’t aggravate any old injuries and, if the remaining three games of the preseason go as smooth, looks to be ready to finally play football–a development Bengals Nation eagerly anticipates.
Newly acquired tight end Ben Utecht also looked very good in his Bengals preseason debut. Utecht provided the Bengals with another short route receiving option and also contributed by catching Carson Palmer’s first touchdown pass of 2008. His hands are very good, and he adds a dimension to the Bengals pass offense that has sorely lacked for years. Combined with a rejuvenated Chris Perry, the Bengals playbook should expand greatly from 2007 due to the increase in legitimate receivers.
The defense, while spotty on certain pass coverages and missing some key tackles, showed a form reminiscent of 2005 by turning up two key interceptions, two sacks on Aaron Rodgers and a fumble recovery that killed the Packers last chance to tie or win the game.
There are still many unknowns for the 2008 Cincinnati Bengals. How will Rudi Johnson perform upon his return? Who will prove to be the Bengals’ third receiver? Will three linebackers emerge as the clear starters to anchor the defensive line? Hopefully, as the preseason progresses, these questions will answer themselves to the good for Bengals fans. For now, the team has to take all of the positives and build on those.