AFC North: 081012 preseason obs

Starting left guard Travelle Wharton suffered a season-ending knee injury during Friday night's preseason-opening 17-6 victory against the Jets, a source told ESPN's John Clayton. Wharton, 31, who signed a three-year, $10 million contract in March, is done after playing three snaps.

The loss of Wharton hurts the Bengals' plans of getting their running game on track. Last season, the Bengals averaged 3.9 yards per carry, which ranked 27th in the NFL. Cincinnati replaced Cedric Benson with BenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back, but the addition of Wharton was almost as important in recharging the running game.

Cincinnati's biggest weakness was running the ball up the middle, where the 320-pound Wharton was going to make a real push. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bengals averaged 3.3 yards in between the tackles (30th in the NFL) and scored three touchdowns up the middle (tied for 21st).

The Bengals made Wharton their first free-agent signing this year because his strength was run blocking. And Green-Ellis, who excels at running inside, would've been following Wharton more often than cutting to the outside.

Cincinnati will also miss Wharton's experience. He has started 99 games over the past eight seasons. Now, the Bengals are expected to turn to Clint Boling, a 2011 fourth-round pick who has three career starts.

Observation deck: Browns-Lions

August, 10, 2012
Brandon Weeden headlined a sloppy performance by the Browns in a 19-17 preseason win at Detroit. In one quarter of work, the rookie quarterback had three completions and two turnovers.

While it wasn't surprising to see Weeden struggle in his first NFL action, it was a little unexpected to hear coach Pat Shurmur compliment him for such an uneven performance.

“I thought Brandon did a good job," Shurmur said at halftime. "It looked like the game was slow for him. He was out there and he executed pretty well. I think he would want that one back on the interception. It was in tight coverage. The ball was a pretty good ball and we’ve got to make that play. I think for the most part, he executed in a way that I thought he would."

As I blogged about earlier tonight, Weeden started off strong before making a series of mistakes. In three series, he fumbled, threw an interception and should have been picked off another time. He left after three forgettable drives, completing 3 of 9 passes for 62 yards.

Here are my thoughts and observations from the game:
  • The Browns' injuries continue to pile up. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi sustained a concussion after making a catch on the Browns' first offensive snap. It's his third head injury in three seasons. The other injuries were: cornerback Dimitri Patterson (ankle), defensive tackle Scott Paxson (knee) and tight end Jordan Cameron (back).
  • Cleveland's run defense was awful, and that doesn't come as a surprise. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, defensive end Frostee Rucker and defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin (pelvis) and Phil Taylor (pectoral muscle) all didn't play, which left the Browns short-handed up front. Cleveland gave up 115 yards rushing in the first half. The Browns showed no containment on outside runs and got gashed on runs up the middle.
  • The Browns won't win many games this season if they beat themselves. That's exactly what happened in the preseason opener, committing eight penalties for 55 yards in the first half. This lack of discipline is a bad reflection on the coaching staff.
  • Backup quarterback Colt McCoy (6-of-8 for 88 yards) was one of the few bright spots. He took three shots downfield, hitting Cameron for a 42-yard pass down the seam. McCoy wasn't this aggressive as the starter last season. He also gained 20 yards on one run.
  • Sheldon Brown tightened his grip on the starting cornerback job with an interception over the middle of the field. His good play looked more impressive by the disappointing performances of Patterson and Buster Skrine.
  • The Browns have to figure out a way to take use Travis Benjamin's speed. He had two catches for 46 yards and can be a playmaker for an offense that lacked a spark last season.
  • In his first game back since missing last year with an Achilles injury, Reggie Hodges had a 52-yard punt and placed two kicks inside the 20-yard line. Not to be outdone, kicker Phil Dawson connected on a 37-yard field goal and had two touchbacks in the first half.
  • Weeden wasn't the only rookie who stumbled Friday night. Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz was called for a false start on third-and-10 and then allowed the sack that led to Weeden's fumble on the next play. He's definitely a work in progress.

Observation deck: Bengals-Jets

August, 10, 2012

The Bengals opened the preseason with a 17-6 win over the Jets that proved costly. Four starters left the first half with injuries, and it's not immediately known how long they will be out.

Left guard Travelle Wharton was carted off the field with a knee injury on the Bengals' third offensive snap of the game. On the next series, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive end Carlos Dunlap both sustained right knee injuries. Early in the second quarter, strong safety Taylor Mays was knocked out of the game with a head injury.

Here are my thoughts and observations from the game:
  • While the three injuries on defense are a concern, that starting group put together a dominating effort. The Bengals limited Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense to 20 total yards in the first quarter. The defensive front got consistent pressure just like last year, and Maualuga and linebacker Manny Lawson both recorded sacks.
  • Quarterback Andy Dalton (4-of-9 for 54 yards) found his rhythm on his second and last drive of the game. But the 15-play, 76-yard drive ended with a field goal. Cincinnati failed to punch the ball in the end zone despite having first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. It was interesting to see the Bengals hand the ball off to red zone monster BenJarvus Green-Ellis only once when they were so close to the goal line.
  • Wide receiver A.J. Green had an off night in his brief outing. It was uncharacteristic of Green to drop a touchdown in the end zone after beating Darrelle Revis on a slant. He was one of the few receivers to make a bad impression. Armon Binns looked good running after the catch, Brandon Tate made some athletic grabs and Marvin Jones got behind the defense for a 45-yard reception. The battle for the No. 2 receiver spot remains tight after the first preseason game.
  • Running back Cedric Peerman solidified his spot on the roster, even though he wasn't on the bubble. He recovered Robert Sands' blocked punt in the end zone and scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
  • Green-Ellis looked good even though his numbers don't reflect that. He was patient following his blockers, gaining 22 yards on seven carries. Not known for being a pass catcher in New England, Green-Ellis beat linebacker Bart Scott one-on-one for an 18-yard reception to convert a third down.
  • Undrafted linebacker Vontaze Burfict rewarded the Bengals for giving him a shot, ending Tim Tebow's night with an interception in the third quarter. Burfict showed athleticism in diving for the pick.