CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 26: Jermaine Gresham #84 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with Andrew Whitworth #77 and Anthony Collins #73 after scoring a touchdown during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Paul Brown Stadium on December 26 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. The Bengals 34-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Welcome back to our weekly segment where we look back at every snap from the big guys in the trenches and hand out grades for each individual play. We decided to only grade the offensive and defensive lineman because it’s much harder to get a feel for their play. There are no stats to tell you how Andre Smith looked last week or how well Pat Sims defended the run. We tried this in the pre-season and the Cincyjungle community responded positively. If you have any suggestions on how to improve our system or any inquiries on a specific player or stat, feel free to ask in the comments sections.
Trends are Starting
Andrew Whitworth has been excellent (39 positive snaps, seven negative snaps) through the first two weeks. We expected that and will continue to expect this trend to continue.
Andre Smith's pass blocking is a new and welcomed trend. He's graded as the team's second best pass protector in both games with 23 positive pass snaps and only five negative pass snaps. He did give up a sack to Von Miller last week, but we'll get into that later.
Kyle Cook's nickname should be Rocksteady. He's just solid in all facets of the game and has rarely looked over-matched. He's become a solid starter and it would be hard to find an upgrade. Grades through two games: 24 positive snaps; 13 negative snaps.
Week Five Should Provide Relief
We praised the play of Nate Livings vs. the Browns, but this week wasn't as pretty. While he wasn't terrible and still graded positively, Livings' play took a dip in every category. After not having one negative snap in pass protection in week one, Livings offered three against the Broncos. Not terrible, but when his bread-and-butter (run blocking) also didn't show up (+0.5), Nate Livings left something to be desired.
Clint Boling had a better game than week one, but he was our worst offensive lineman vs. the Browns, so he could only improve. While he's still struggling at run blocking (eight positive snaps, 12 negative snaps), Boling holds his own as a pass protector with 20 positive snaps and 10 negative snaps. When Bobbie Williams returns, it should provide a boost in the running game. Maybe they will find a way to get Clint Boling some pass protection snaps until he gets stronger and more aware in the run game.
We Told You to Look Out, Andre
Last week we provided some keys to the Denver game, and in that article I explained how Andre Smith was getting too deep into his back-steps and was susceptible to an inside pass rush.
"Keep an eye on Andre Smith vs. Von Miller. If Smith gets too deep into his drop, Miller will cut inside and have a clear shot at Dalton without Smith being able to recover."
And that's exactly what happened. Von Miller used his patented one-step hard-cut move inside and Andre Smith couldn't do anything about it. Take a look here.
Some Interesting Stats Through Two Weeks
On run plays, when the offensive line works together and all five of the linemen have at least neutral blocks, the Bengals average 7.04 yards per carry. If one of the five linemen has a negative snap, that YPC drops to 2.56. If two or more offensive linemen have negative snaps, that average drops to 1.09 yards per carry. Not very surprising, but it shows how much it could mean to have Bobbie Williams, who is known for his run blocking, back into the lineup.
As a whole, the offensive line has been much better at pass blocking (+30.5) than it has been at run blocking (+10.5). You could probably tell just by looking at Cedric Benson's numbers compared to the passing game numbers of Andy Dalton and his receivers that the passing game was clicking more than the run game. Credit has to be given to Jay Gruden. He's doing an excellent job of of protecting Dalton with extra blockers and the play-action. We haven't seen nearly as many five and seven-step drops that were staples of the Bratkowski era. Those tend to expose your offensive line and ask them to be very good pass protectors.
The Bengals have passed the ball from plays where the QB is under center 25 times this year. Of those 25 passes, 15 have been play-action. Andy Dalton has been great on play-action passes so it's a good way to make the passing game easy for a rookie when you're using it 60 percent of the time.
The Bengals have run the ball to the left side of the offensive line on 54 percent of their runs for an average of 3.7 yards per carry. The right side has only seen 27 percent, but when you look at Boling's run blocking grades (-2.5), it's easy to see why they aren't testing it too often. If you take away Benson's 39-yard run against the Browns, the right side is only providing three yards per carry.
As much talk as there has been about Chris Pressley and the return of the FB, the Bengals have used two-tight end sets (38 percent) more than they've used the FB (33 percent) in non-shotgun formations. The old three-WR and one-TE formations of the Bratkowski age is only being used 25 percent of all non-shotgun formations.
Keys Vs. The 49ers
Clint Boling and Andre Smith need to step up their run blocking efforts. Both players seem lost when they're asking to get into the second level and find a LB to block. If you're going to average more than three-yards per carry, you need to block somebody on the second level.
How will Andrew Whitworth and Nate Livings handle Justin Smith? I have full faith in Whitworth but Livings isn't the best pass protector and if this game gets to be a shoot-out like it was in Denver, Livings will have his hands full.
Play-action passing must continue to be a staple of this offense. It doesn't matter the success of the running game. Dalton's play-action fake has been freezing linebackers and allowing Bengals WRs time to get behind the opposition for easy receptions over the middle. The 49ers were caught with a hard play-fake to essentially close out the game last week vs. the Cowboys and it wasn't the first time. Donte Whitner is aggressive and doesn't have the chemistry he'd like with his teammates in the secondary. The Bengals can use this to their advantage and exploit the miscues for much needed big plays.