Game Preview: Bengals
☀️ Good morning!
Congratulations on making it to Friday! I don’t like to wish my days away, but after last Sunday’s performance, I’ve been counting down the days to the weekend.
Today we’re talking all things Cincinnati Bengals, from Super Bowl runners up to an 0-2 start and losing to Cooper Rush and the Dallas Cowboys.
The around the NFL podcast crew name the Bengals #1 on their cornered animals list, meaning they’re expecting them to come out firing, which also means the Jets will need to be at their best.
We’re going to take a look at the game today, but first, we’re going to get on with the Quick Throws.
🏈 Jets rookie receiver Garrett Wilson has been voted the Pepsi rookie of the week for week 2. Thanks to his 8-catch, 102-yard, and 2 TD performance, the Jets were able to pull out an improbable win at the death. Well deserved and the first of many hopefully.
🏈 Staying with Wilson, according to PFF Garrett Wilson is the highest graded (86.0) rookie WR against man coverage through two weeks.
🏈 Mike LaFleur said in a press conference yesterday that he wants to get RB Breece Hall more involved in the offense but also doesn’t want to minimize Micheal Carter. “I do want to get him more involved. We see the home run potential. But I want to get Michael Carter carries too because of what he can do for our offense”
🏈 When talking about Tyler Conklin LaFleur said “That guy just wants to win…he’s one of my favorite guys I’ve ever coached”
🏈 Rich Cimini had an interesting note on his podcast around Corey Davis saying: “I noted that an NFC team is keeping an eye on Corey Davis. It wouldn’t shock me if the Jets got a call before the trade deadline with a team looking into Davis” - Davis is a much better player than a lot of people give him credit for, but depending on the record that may be a call worth taking.
🏈 John Franklin-Myers returned to practice yesterday after sitting out yesterday’s session. All signs point to him being fine for the game on Sunday. Let’s take a look at the injury report. Right now there are no real concerns for the Jets, but it does look as though newly signed La’el Collins may miss the game for the Bengals.
IN SHORT: The season so far hasn’t gone to plan, the new offensive line still can’t block, teams are keeping Chase in front of them and the pass rush can’t seem to get home. The Bengals are heading to New York sitting at 0-2 after losing games to Mitchell Trubisky and Cooper Rush.
So far through two weeks of the NFL season, the Bengals are averaging 18.5 points a game, which is significantly less than the 27.1 points they averaged through the regular season last year. It all starts with the LSU connection of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.
So far the connection has hit a little turbulence with Burrow having more INTs (4) than touchdowns (3) and Chase having just the one touchdown through two games. It’s important to note that Chase still has 15 catches and 183 yards, so it’s not like he’s struggling, but teams have worked to try and limit the explosive connection as much as possible.
The Cowboys who are a heavy cover-3 team operated a lot of cover-2 against the Bengals and took away a lot of the deeper options that Burrow likes. It’s something Pittsburgh did to an extent in week one and that philosophy plays out in two key statistics, one for Burrow and one for Chase.
Joe Burrow is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt through two games, down from 8.9 yards an attempt in 2021. It was even lower last week against the Cowboys at just 5.5 yards per attempt.
Chase’s yards per reception is at 12.2 in comparison to 18.0 in his outstanding 2021 rookie season.
That in a nutshell will be the job of the Jets. Limit those explosive plays over the top and make Burrow check down with your linebackers flowing to the football.
Burrow is just 1-7 this season on throws of 20+ yards with 0 touchdowns and 1 INT, last year this was his bread and butter with 13 touchdowns coming on plays of 20+ yards.
Although Burrow and Chase are the two lynchpins of the offense, they’re by no means a one-man band, although someone may need to tell that to Zac Taylor who failed to incorporate Tee Higgins in the game-plan in the first half of Sunday’s loss, once he remembered and Higgins started getting targets it was already too late, despite Tee finishing the game with six catches for 71 yards and a score.
The Bengals have a trio of wide receivers who could cause the Jets issues in Chase, Higgins, and Boyd, but after a secondary makeover (especially at cornerback) the Jets are better suited to deal with the passing game of the Bengals.
A lot was made of the offensive line last season for the Bengals as they allowed the 3rd most sacks in football with 55, this off-season de-facto GM (and owner) Mike Brown went about changing that with an aggressive acquisition strategy:
Signed guard Alex Cappa away from Tampa Bay to a 4-year $35 million deal.
Signed center Ted Karras away from New England to a 3-year $18 million deal.
Signed tackle La’el Collins away from the Cowboys to a 3-year $21 million deal.
Drafted guard Cordell Volson in the 4th round out of North Dakota State
Unfortunately for the Bengals, it hasn’t been plain sailing. Joe Burrow has already been sacked 13 times through two games, and while some of that is on Burrow’s tendency to hold onto the ball too long, a lot of it is on the new-look offensive line failing to gel as a unit. That 13 sacks allowed as a unit through two games is tied for the most allowed through a 2-game stretch to start the season in the last 20 years.
Jonah Williams is the only holdover from the 2021 line and he has arguably been the worst lineman allowing 3 sacks and 10 pressures with rookie Cordell Volson a close second with 2 sacks and 7 pressures allowed. When you have that kind of protection on your left side, it’s going to make you jumpy as a QB and the likes of Quinnen Williams and Carl Lawson should be chomping at the bit.
Dallas used a lot of stunts and twists to generate pressure, and the offensive line’s lack of experience playing together showed with the 6 sacks allowed. I would love to see more of that from the Jets this weekend, when you throw a lot of stunts at a time they need to communicate at a high level, and that’s something the Bengals aren’t doing right now.
The final aspect of the Bengals’ offensive gameplan is Joe Mixon, a player who rushed for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns last season while averaging 4.1 yards a carry. So far this season Mixon has failed to find the end-zone on the ground while averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. It’s not for lack of run, Mixon has 46 carries through two games.
If the Jets can keep Mixon to 3 yards a carry and stop the explosive plays, they’ve got a great chance of walking out of the Meadowlands at 2-1.
Defensively the Bengals really haven’t been all that bad, allowing 43 points in two games is not elite, but it’s certainly not bad at the same time. You could argue that 43 points against a Mitchell Trubisky-led Steelers and Cooper Rush-led Cowboys is pretty bad, and I’d find it hard to argue, but having watched both games now I rate the Bengals defensive talent.
The Bengals’ run defense is led by D.J. Reader, who is quickly becoming one of the best and one of my favorite nose tackles in football. But it’s by no means a one-man band, linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt are both good against the run and Sam Hubbard has also been chipping in this year.
Overall the Bengals are allowing 3.7 yards per carry, and have allowed just one rushing touchdown. Compare that to the Jets who have allowed 3 rushing touchdowns on 4.3 yards a carry. Although it could be said that the Jets have faced two of the better rushing attacks in football, and arguably the best rushing attack in football with Nick Chubb and the Cleveland Browns.
If you think the Jets' pass rush hasn’t been firing, take a look at the Bengals who have generated just two sacks through the first two weeks of the season. The pass-rush has largely been led by the same guys who are holding up against the run, D.J Reader and Sam Hubbard. Between those two players, you have 1 sack and 14 pressures, for everyone else, it’s 1 sack and 15 pressures.
Star signing from the last off-season Trey Hendrickson has failed to get going so far, generating just 3 pressures with a win rate of just 9.2%, compare that to last season where he had a win rate of 20.6% and you can see the decline through two weeks of the season. Everyone expects that to change, and Hendrickson will have a good chance to that this week with Max Mitchell and George Fant both having already allowed sacks this season.
On the back end of the defense the Bengals have a lot of talent, starting with corner Chidobe Awuzie who has allowed just 44.4% of passes to be completed into his coverage, he’ll be supported by Von Bell, rookie Daxton Hill, and Jessie Bates III at safety. Eli Apple will be looking for a bounceback game having allowed 85.7% of passes to be completed into his coverage.
Jessie Bates hasn’t had the best start to the season and as he often plays so far back as a single high safety, there are areas to exploit in the intermediate game, which is where Joe Flacco can really go to work. Bates will often pick up the slot receiver in the red-zone and I wouldn’t mind getting either Garrett Wilson or Elijah Moore lined up opposite him, with the expected result a little something like this:
The Bengals are still waiting for their first interception of the season, and hopefully, they need to wait just a little bit longer. But turnovers were the bread and butter of the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl last year, they tied the 2020 Buccaneers for most turnovers produced in a single postseason since 2015.
The Bengal’s defense is run by Lou Anarumo, who’s been with the team since 2019. Lou is renowned for throwing different and complex looks at offenses on a weekly basis with his system shifting from week to week with Mike LaFleur saying yesterday that he runs out a “huge menu” of defensive calls.
Don’t be surprised to see three safeties on the field Sunday, it’s a look that Lou likes to operate. He also disguises his corner and safety blitzes as well as anyone in the league and Joe will need to be able to identify where the pressure is coming from as well this week as he did last week.