Dallas Cowboys 28
Cincinnati Bengals 14
This game was pretty upsetting to watch last week, but going through the coaching tape and trying to understand what happened on offence I am more frustrated than sad. My intention was to look at the offensive line play as that was one of the big talking points, but I have taken in aspect of the rest of the offence as I went through my latest amateur adventure in film.
The Bengals actually gained three hundred and forty-give yards of total offence in this game, with nearly one hundred yards on the ground from only nineteen carries, but they gave up four sacks and nine QB hits whilst only getting into the end zone in the fourth quarter when the game had already escaped them.
There are a lot of new or changed parts to the Bengals offence this year with a new offensive coordinator, new number two and three receivers, tight end Tyler Eifert still not being fit, and a new right tackle in Cedric Ogbuehi. This has led to a lot of nearly but not quite plays rather than flat out bad play, but it is really causing the Bengals’ offence problems in maintaining drives and in particular, being efficient in the red zone.
The timing is not quite there yet with the new receivers, and so whilst Brandon LaFell caught two touchdowns whilst looking pretty good, Tyler Boyd only made a couple of and had a particularly bad drop in the third quarter.
Moving to the offensive line, there is only one new player in effective rookie Cedric Ogbuehi, but this does seem to be causing them some problems at times. I am not an offensive line play expert, but it’s not that they look particularly bad in pass protection, but Andy Dalton has been hit too often and you can see why. The chemistry still appears to be developing between right guard Kevin Zeitler and Ogbuehi so whilst they are doing fine when facing a straight rush, any time that defensive linemen stunt, or someone loops round to the right side of the line it seems to be causing the Bengals issues. Towards the end of the game Ryan Davis was getting round Ogbuehi repeatedly, but generally up field and so Dalton was stepping up and able to make the underneath passes the Cowboys were leaving them.
The run game of the Bengals features pulling guards fairly regularly, particularly Clint Bolling, and this is included in their play action passing which can lead to some interesting protection assignments. On one play Tyler Croft had to come across the back of the formation to seal the defensive end and was not able to hold up in what is a pretty challenging blocking assignment. You would also see this kind of movement in the running game where in mirrored action on plays early and late in the game, the tackle and guard of the same side would pull whilst a receiver motioned towards the line would have to cut the defensive end seal that side of the line. When the left side of the line performed this play, Brandon LaFell was able to make that cut block and the run worked, but later in the game when the right side performed the action, Tyler Boyd could not stop Ryan Davis from getting into the backfield and disrupting the play.
This is the problem with the Bengals offence at the moment; it’s just not quite clicking. A lot of the time they were in 11 personnel, and were only blocking with six players. Sometimes you would see Giovani Bernard lined up just behind the line between centre and guard, and he would be effective as part of the blocking unit, but they were not using big formations or lots of blockers to help sure up the pass protection. This might seem like a bad plan given what has been going on this season, except for large parts of the game it was fine but the timing was off with the receivers and the pass was incomplete. Then they would give up a pressure or sack.
Overall I still think the Bengals offence could come together, and so could the line, but my worry is that with them going to New England this weekend, making four road games out of their first six and with one of their home games in London in week eight, the Bengals could be too far behind to make it into the playoffs. The loss of coordinator Hue Jackson, on top of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu at receiver, coupled with Tyler Eifert getting injured in the Pro Bowl and not making it back to the field yet has given the Bengals offence a huge amount to deal with at the start of the season, but whilst not a complete disaster, it has been enough to derail them so far. On to New England then…