Vontaze Burfict has to have one of the best feel good stories of the 2014-2015 NFL season. He started his career as an undrafted free agent with a terrible showing at the combine to signing a 20 million dollar, 4 year deal to keep him as the emotional anchor in what was ranked as the number 3 defense in the NFL. Burfict played in all 16 games and started 14 of his rookie year, finishing the season as the Bengals' top tackler with 127 combined tackles, including 18 tackles in their final game of the year against the Baltimore Ravens.He finished the 2013 season leading the NFL in tackles with 171, and was the only Bengals defensive player who was selected to the Pro Bowl. He was the first Bengals linebacker to make the Pro Bowl since Jim LeClair in 1976.
This kind of performance is the reason Vontaze has become the 3rd major piece to the defense, that also includes names like Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, that has been locked up for the near future. This also puts Burfict in the Top 7 Highest Paid Inside Linebackers in the NFL.
Lets hope this pay day doesn't soften the bite of the King Tez, we need this ZImmerless defense to be just as aggressive if not more this year than last.
Where you ready for the first game of the year in Paul Brown Stadium? I was and so was Andy Dalton and the First Team Offense.
Things have changed since last weeks bout in Kansas City, lineup changes due to injuries included Mohamed Sanu in for Marvin Jones, Alex Smith in place of Tyler Eifert* and Brandon Thompson in for Geno Atkins. Jason Campbell and Dre Kirkpatrick were also noted as inactive for the game, lets hope injuries don't plague the Bengals for another season.
The Bengals choose to kick in the opening and let the defense do the talking. This lead to a quick 4 n out for Geno Smith and company, a 51 yd. punt by the Jets and a 10 yd. return by Adam Jones and the show everyone came to see walked onto the field. The first team offense marched 67 yards down the field with 2 penalties and 5 plays, the last being a beautiful 43 yd. rainbow from Dalton to Sanu for a touchdown. Andy and the boys seemed to be in sync coming out the gate and it showed.
The next series on defense didn't prove quite as fruitful as the previous; the scramble by the Jets gained 58 yards and setup 2 first downs. The Defense of Cincinnati missed critical tackles on Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell and that allowed the Jets to chew their way down the field. Geno went 3 of 4 and 27 yards and setup Nick Folk for the field goal, putting the Jets on the board, 3-7CIN. I don't think anyone expected the next drive to start the way it did but it started with a Sanzenbacher fumble although Cincy kept control of the ball when AJ Smith recovered the loose ball. Andy went 4 for 4 and 70 yards with 48 of those yards going to AJ Green. Giovani Bernard finished the march that began at Cincy's 22 with a 1 yard run touchdown. This Bengals Offense is looking stellar and moving like a well-oiled machine.
The quarter ended with Cincinnati taking back possession of the ball with a Terrance Newman Interception and scuffle by a few angry Jets players.
The 2nd quarter started with and Andy and the first stringers back on the field, why stop a good thing? This starting series led to a Nugent field goal, leaving New York trailing by 14.
Rex kept his starters in the entire 2nd quarter yet they did nothing their first series. This brought out Matt Scott and the second string offense, would we see another up chuck TD from Scott? Sadly no, the drive started with the Law Firm running 3 yards, his only yards of the night. Then Scott got devastated Davis of the Jets and he lost the ball. With this Fumble New York took over at Cincinnati's 19 and turned into a Powell TD. The Bengals next series gave us our first showing of Jeremy Hill for the night; he had a 2-yard pickup. Geno Smith ran the next touchdown in for the Jets right after the 2-minute warning and after a failed 2-point conversion, New York was only trailing by 1.
Overall the Bengals 2nd string offense was not able to compete with the Jets starters and it showed the entire quarter. You could see the frustration on the face of Hue and Marvin.
The 3rd quarter was all 2nd string across the board. Cedric Peerman was a bright spot until his fumble, this became fumble number 3 for Cincy and no one was pleased with that. With no scoring in the 3rd quarter, it was almost all roster spot competition.
The 4th quarter showed us what Tyler Wilson looks like against 2nd to 3rd string defense and it looked good. He was sharp and accurate with his passing making very smart throws. For whatever reason Wilson looked more comfortable in the pocket than Scott did all night and without losing his lunch once. Wilson did leave the game with an injury along with Rex Burkhead. That leaves only 2 health QB's for the Bengals, something they have been trying to avoid.
Things to take away from this game: Andy and the offense looks ready to go against the best in the NFL and they will with one of the toughest schedules in the entire league, the defense needs a bit of polish but seems almost as hungry as it was last year. How much will the departure of Zimmer have on the defense? Will they still have the heart and passion they did when playing under such a father like figure? Both Paul and Hue expressed concern over the poor play of their backups and with only 2 more games for a lot of guys to prove they deserve to be on the team, will the next Burfict's and Gilberry's and Rey's step up?
We will see how the coaches make adjustments and improvements for the game in Arizona on the 24th.