The turnover rate in the NFL is high and every year we see new faces on every team. It’s obvious when looking in the mirror, as Baltimore nearly changed the entire wide receiver room with their free agent additions. Though they appear as the same ole’ Bengals, they are different in areas. I sat down with Patrick Judis of Cincy Jungle to discuss the Week 2 matchup for the early King of the North crown.
1. Both the Ravens and the Bengals played, in my opinion, lesser AFC opponents. Do you believe this game will provide a better evaluation of the 2018 Bengals than Week 1 exposed?
I think as far as the Bengals offense goes we may see a different team. It is no secret that the Ravens secondary is better equipped to handle Andy Dalton with all of his toys. The safety tandem of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson is just a whole different beast. Although, you could tell from the Bengals first game under Bill Lazor’s offense that things are fairly different. Dalton wasn’t always able to hit them, but receivers were running open. It is possible that with a few of reviewing where he missed open guys that he could be more productive against the Ravens.
As far as defensively, the Bengals still look relatively the same. I’m not sure what Hayden Hurst’s status will be for Thursday, but it is clear tight ends are still giving Cincinnati issues. It will be interesting how the Bengals handle the different skill sets of Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV.
Cincinnati also showed major issues getting off the field on third down as Andrew Luck and the Colts converted seven of their 11 third down plays. That is something they struggled with going back to last season, and something I’m not sure gets fixed on a short week.
Overall though, I think what we saw from Cincinnati on Sunday will be typical of what we see from them in 2018.
2. Joe Mixon averaged 5.6 yards per carry in Week 1. How much of this can you attribute to the: skill of the offensive line? Colts lack of run defense? The talent of Mixon?
Mixon’s talent is the most important. You can see he just knows which holes to hit and how to set up his blockers. It especially shows on runs where offensive linemen are pulling and screen passes.
The addition of Cordy Glenn at left tackle and Billy Price at center are very obvious in the run game though. Bengals’ running backs are having to fight off defenders in the backfield far less often. However, it is also obvious that the right guard and tackle positions are still liabilities. Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart struggled to run and pass block against the lowliest of Colts’ defenders. Pro Football Focus even backed up their horrible play by showing how much more effective Cincinnati was running anywhere but behind them.
Rushing to the left and right of #Bengals G Alex Redmond, Cincy RBs totaled eight yards on five carries (1.6 YPC).— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) September 10, 2018
Rushing everywhere else, Cincy RBs totaled 85 yards on 13 carries (6.54 YPC).
I would say given how bad the Bengals right side of the offensive line was it is hard to tell how the Colts run defense really impacted Mixon’s performance. It is pretty clear that the Bengals are focused on getting him out in space though, which is where he is deadliest.
3. Vontaze Burfict, for the second-straight season, is missing the first contest against the Ravens. What specifically do the Bengals lose when Burfict is off the field?
The Bengals did a good job of planning for it this season when they signed Preston Brown from the Bills. They made the deal just hours before Burfict’s suspension came down, so it is likely the team knew they needed a replacement.
Burfict is great at run blocking, and he is one of those players who you can count on to make a game-changing play. He is the undisputed leader of the defense as well. The Bengals defense didn’t seem to suffer as much as it has in past years without Burfict, but when Brown left briefly with an injury it showed. You can expect the run defense to not be as good as it would otherwise be. Still, Preston Brown and now Jordan Evans in his second season have really replaced him fairly well.
4. The Bengals’ defensive front is anchored by the terrifying tandem of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Do you believe their impact will be the key to success, or is it another defensive group?
Atkins makes the Bengals entire defense work. Not to say Dunlap isn’t great, but having a guy like Atkins, who can disrupt offenses in the middle, have such a huge ripple effect. He allows guys like Dunlap, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis to get one-on-one match ups on the outside.
Cincinnati’s defensive line could be their strongest unit on the entire team from top to bottom (if you leave out Michael Johnson). If they are able to get pressure on Flacco without requiring the defense to blitz then it could be a long night for the Ravens.
5. Who is the player many aren’t taking notice of yet, who could produce a breakout game in primetime on Thursday night?
I think he gets plenty of hype in Cincinnati, but William Jackson is a guy who just has big play written all over him. You could tell by how often the Colts attacked Dre Kirpatrick that they didn’t want to give Jackson a chance to make a play on the ball.
As far as an offensive play, I feel like John Ross is still somewhat flying under the radar. He caught a touchdown last week, but if the Bengals offensive line can give Dalton some time then Ross could end up having a coming out party on Thursday Night Football.