PREVIEW: Bengals Passing Game vs. Raider Coverage Schemes

Peter Aiken

With the lack of a pass rush in Oakland, how will the Bengals offense attack the Raiders passing defense?

With the Oakland Raiders needing to find creative ways to generate a pass rush with more than just the defensive front, it puts other players in a predicament during coverage schemes.

A blitzing linebacker leaves someone like Jermaine Gresham single-covered with a match-up issue; faster than linebackers, bigger than safeties. It also opens the prospects of single-coverage on the outside during cover zero and cover one schemes, which generally use rotation to one side or the other; usually to Green's side of the field. Now the field opens up for rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, or Brandon Tate if they want to risk it.

Blitzing safeties further exposes the deep third of the field, greatly benefiting Green's vertical routes down the sidelines because defensive rotations are further limited. But it also promotes cover three, which opens more underneath routes for a pass and catch philosophy idealized for pushing the football downfield, sustaining drives that hasn't always been there for Cincinnati.

How will the Oakland Raiders key their coverage schemes against the Bengals is a burning question. Because if the Bengals pass protection plays to their potential again this weekend, quarterback Andy Dalton will have time to scan the field and go through his progressions -- one of our talking points earlier this year that Dalton struggled at.

One of those defensive backs that could witness single-coverage due to an overload of blitzes is Michael Huff, who is making the unusual transition from safety to cornerback this year to help with an infirmed secondary. How has the transition gone and how should we expect Green to be covered?

"The transition has gone surprisingly well," said Levi Damien with Silver and Black Pride. "He gives up at least one big catch each game but he also makes some big plays. He won’t be the number one guy to cover AJ Green. He and Ron Bartell will cover him depending on which side he lines up. They play a lot of zone in Oakland now so Green could be handed over to slot corner Joselio Hanson or free safety Matt Giordano. Technically speaking, Bartell is the number one corner for the Raiders though."

According to Football Outsiders, the Oakland Raiders sport a 31.9 percent DVOA against the No. 1 wide receiver, which ranks No. 30 in the NFL. Huff plays primarily at left cornerback and Green, though often all over the field, could technically say he makes his home at right wide receiver.

When asked if there's a defender that could step up and make the critical play in the Red Zone, Damien said, "To be honest, there isn’t a player on this Raiders defense who can really be counted on. Many of them have stepped up in moments but none consistently. That would probably just be a Bengals touchdown barring some kind of mistake on their part like a penalty or something."

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