August 15, 2009

Vilma, Sharper lead first team defense, as expected

The first team defense forced a fumble, a pick, and an interception on the first three Bengals receptions, but found that they have a familiar flaw.

CB Jason David was abused by both Bengals quarterbacks in the first half. In the final seconds of the half, he was flagged for illegal contact and was still beaten vertically by Bengals WR Chris Henry for a touchdown pass from former Saints draft pick QB J.T. O'Sullivan. Almost all offensive success for the Bengals in the air came against David, though he was not at fault when Cincinnati runningback Cedric Benson hit the Saints hard repeatedly in the first half.

Benson though, committed the first of many, many mistakes by players in this preseason opener. On the first drive for the Bengals, Benson found newcomer safety Darren Sharper, who pipped the ball free. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma scooped up the fumble cleanly and was escorted by his teammates down to the Bengal 6 yard line.

Vilma later rushed down the opposite sideline of the field, intercepting a Carson Palmer pass in the left flat and again, almost reaching the goal line. Unfortunately, Bengals WR Andre Caldwell chased him down as Vilma was switching the ball from his right arm to his left. The referees and a replay review ruled that Vilma fumbled as he hit the turf, and Bengals OL Andrew Whitworth fell on the fumble.

DE Charles Grant was one of the other stories of the first half. After escorting Vilma's fumble recovery down the left sideline early on, Grant was again on the run when he chased down Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco - yeah, chased down - in the open field. Replay clearly showed Ochocinco's foot was out of bounds, yet referees ruled and then confirmed with replay that he was not out of bounds. Roman Harper brought Ochocinco down 13 yards later.

But Grant's eventful first quarter wasn't over yet. Coming hard on a pass rush, he tossed backwards a pathetic pass block attempt by Cedric Benson, rolled away from the lineman assigned to block him, and put his arms around Carson Palmer's ankles as he tried to scramble away. Then, on the last play of the quarter Grant chased O'Sullivan out of the pocket but only got as far as an apparently hamstring injury let him. Grant limped off the field before the play was even over. He later appeared on the sideline in street clothes.

In the second half, rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins saw his first action at cornerback. He helped break up a pass that fellow rookie LB Jonathan Casillas intercepted.

Tony Hargrove collected the only sack of the game for either side, rotating off his blocker to flip and then bury O'Sullivan the play after Grant left. Otherwise, the Saints were unable to pressure the Bengals passers without committing players to blitzes.

How did the offense do?

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