The Bengals' passing game is again trying to find its rhythm, even after several offseason moves made with an eye on the attack hitting the high notes of old.
Such was the concern about the Bengals' passing game after the 20-7 win at Carolina in Week Three that the subject shoved to the side much talk about another above-average Cincinnati defense and the club's overall resilience after responding with two wins following an awful-looking Week One loss at New England. In victory, QB Carson Palmer nonetheless raised concerns about his play after he completed just 19-of-37 passes for 195 yards and was intercepted twice. On his second pick, the pocket collapsed toward him as he threw, and he underthrew WR Terrell Owens.
Not all has been disappointing about the passing game; Palmer threw for 345 yards in the opener and connected with WR Chad Ochocinco on 12 receptions for 159 yards. Also, rookie TE Jermaine Gresham and WR Jordan Shipley have made immediate positive impacts.
That said, the attack hasn't met expectations. Palmer, who struggled toward the end of last season, has had an up-and-down opening to the season. One NFL evaluator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Palmer's inaccuracy was an issue. The evaluator also said the offense appears to have an identity crisis on its hands; the attack was strongest when it emphasized the run a season ago, but the Bengals, with a host of new weapons for Palmer, averaged 40.7 pass attempts though three games. Another issue to watch: while Palmer has been sacked just three times, he has come under some pressure, as he was on the Owens' interception, and the feeling is the O-line is stronger run-blocking than pass-blocking.
Owens, whom the Bengals signed in July, had just 14 catches on 33 targets in the first three games. His take on the intercepted deep ball thrown his way at Carolina included his analysis of some of the attack's early-season issues.
"I was open," Owens said of the play, according to the team's Web site. "I've been open on a number of routes, and for whatever reason, there's always been some kind of breakdown with protection, or Carson has to come out of the pocket, or he's rushed. It's one of those things where it's frustrating for myself, but I've got to keep plugging away.
"I'm not going to gripe. The most important thing, as I've alluded to here, is we're winning. If we were losing, then I would definitely have a lot to say, but the most important thing is the 'W.' "