Thursday, November 7, 2013
Drops an issue Bengals WRs want to correct
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- Twice when he looked back at film from last Thursday's overtime loss at Miami, Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green twinged.
He was briefly reliving the disappointment he first felt last week when on two occasions he committed a receiver's greatest sin by dropping passes. The first of them was perhaps the most unforgivable, coming when there wasn't a defender within five yards of him. It was the most open he would be all night.
"I hate it," Green said. "It's tough to watch, but that's something I've got to work on."
A.J. Green had two drops against the Dolphins but did finish with 11 catches for 128 yards.
He isn't alone. All this week, the message in the receivers' meeting rooms has gone as follows: see the ball, catch the ball, then run with the ball.
Against the Dolphins last week, the Bengals had their most drops of the Andy Dalton quarterbacking era when they combined to watch five balls slip out their hands and hit the turf. In addition to Green's two, tight end Jermaine Gresham lost one, and receivers Andrew Hawkins and Mohamed Sanu couldn't hold on to another two. Three of the Bengals' drops came on consecutive plays that covered a pair of drives.
"Drops happen," Green said, "but we got to continue to get better and we can't let that happen in key moments of the game."
His first drop ended one second-quarter series that began near midfield on the Bengals' side of the 50-yard line. Had he caught it, Green would have converted a first down. At the very least, perhaps that drive could have ended in a field goal instead of a punt.
Green's second dropped ball came at the start of the next Bengals series when he tried to corral a short in route. With Miami cornerback Brent Grimes draped on him, the receiver had a difficult time cleanly fielding the pass. On the very next play, Gresham bobbled a Dalton pass while linebacker Dannell Ellerbe hounded him from behind.
Sanu's fourth-quarter drop resulted in an Ellerbe interception, and came when the receiver was sprinting deep down the middle of the field for a reception that had the potential to lead to a big touchdown had he been more open. Instead, as the ball hit Sanu's hands and started rattling inside them, he was hit by the defender in what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet collision. No flag was thrown for the hit as the ball bounced into Ellerbe's hands.
"It was helmet-to-helmet or whatever it was, but if he would have caught it the first time he would have taken the hit and gotten the first down," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. "Those are going to happen, but hopefully with our receivers they don't happen very often."
Hawkins' drop came on the first play of the next drive. As Dalton tried to set up a screen pass left, Hawkins, playing in his first game of the season after missing the first half of the year with an ankle injury, bobbled and eventually dropped the ball.
The five drops were the most for the Bengals in a game since 2007.
"You've got to take care of the advantages," receiver Marvin Jones said. "When everything comes our way, we catch it. That's what we're supposed to do; that's our job. If we don't do that, then you see what happens. We have to keep taking care of the football and catching the football and making the plays we know we can make."
Each of the drops clouded what was otherwise an OK night for the Bengals' passing game. Aside from his three interceptions, Dalton still threw for 338 yards. In Gruden's eyes, he actually looked quite strong overall, and had a better outing than some might want to give him credit for having. With respect to the balls the Bengals did catch, Green walked away with 11 receptions on 128 yards. Sanu, fighting through injury, had six catches. Jones and running back Giovani Bernard had four. Gresham and fellow tight end Tyler Eifert had three each, and Hawkins had one.
Green felt his problem was the problem the others had. He was too eager to make a play.
"Coming into this year, the whole thing I was thinking about was getting more yards after the catch," he said. "I've got to concentrate more when I'm wide open. It's easy to make the hard catch look easy. The easy ones are the ones I just try to take my head out and run [before] I catch it. I can't do that."