Bengals Defense Keeping Their Eye On Two Rookies

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals defense need to pay attention and contain two rookies on Philadelphia's offense.

It's been three weeks since the Bengals have allowed an opposing offense to gain over 100 yards rushing. We're approaching two months since a running back last generated over 100 yards rushing (Jonathan Dwyer, Week Seven). Powerfully balanced defensive front, Chris Crocker, safety intervention on the line of scrimmage, a number of reasons promote the team's proliferation of dominating rush defense.

Yet the Bengals defense will have their attention focused on rookie running back Bryce Brown Thursday, who generated 347 yards rushing in two games against the Panthers and Cowboys three weeks ago.

"He's bigger and faster than LeSean McCoy, so they're really different backs," said Jason Brewer at Bleeding Green Nation (SB Nation's Philadelphia Eagles website). "He doesn't have the short area quickness of McCoy, but he's got higher top-speed. When he gets open space, he's gone. As good as McCoy is at finding holes and cutting, he doesn't have home run speed."

Though uncertainty highlighted with probable coaching changes translates into murky prognostication, the Eagles running game appears on track with a future featuring two different styles within a system, provided there's a promotion for more balanced participation.

"It's really hard to say how they could be used in tandem because we don't really know what the system will be like next year," said Brewer. "We're all assuming we'll have an entirely new coaching staff here, so if its someone that will commit to those two as the center of the offense, I think it could be exciting."

The hesitation goes back to a running thread for the Eagles this year, if not previous seasons. Head coach Andy Reid, who in his 15th season with Philadelphia, has amassed a record of 149-100-1, seven division championships, played four conference championship games and one Super Bowl. Though going 8-8 last year and 4-9 this season, especially with the talent and salaries applied to this squad, not only has Reid felt the hot seat, he's certain to find unemployment following the regular season this year.

And there's virtually no shot of him sticking around.

"It's been 14 years here and while he's won a lot of games, there's been a pretty clear downward trend in recent seasons and a lot of that can be attributed to him," said Brewer. "Questionable draft picks, free agent signings and coaching hires... He has final say on all personnel matters here so it's pretty easy to know where to put the blame."

However one legacy left after the Andy Reid era could be rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who tossed a game-winning touchdown on Sunday to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as time expired in the fourth quarter. In his last three starts, the rookie out of Arizona hasn't thrown an interception and compiled an impressive 61.4 percent completion rate in five games (four starts). His 381 yards passing against the Buccaneers is a career-high.

"He's actually done a surprisingly good job dealing with pressure," said Brewer. "Despite the fact that he's not really mobile, he actually moves around well in the pocket and does the little things to avoid rushers. He also always keeps his eyes downfield, which is rare for young QBs. What I would like to see from him is more accuracy on deep balls. He's had a few shots at big plays that have been wasted with underthrows or overthrows. So whether he's getting pressured or not, I want to see more accuracy."

When asking if Jay Gruden would be a good fit as the next head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer agreed, comparing Foles to Dalton.

“From everything I have heard I think Foles would be a good fit for his system. I think Foles and Jay would get along pretty well,” offered Bengals beat man Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He is a big guy (Foles is 6-5, 243; Dalton is 6-2, 220), he is accurate and he makes good decisions. I think Jay likes quarterbacks with a little bit of moxy and the ability to persevere.

“Dalton and Foles are about equal in mobility. [Gruden] values accuracy and I know one thing about Foles coming out was that he is extremely accurate.”

Yet as the Eagles figure out their future with an aging Michael Vick prone to concussions, a rookie emerges that at the very least, has provided an argument for competition next season.

"It's only been four starts so obviously that's tough, but I think he's the quarterback of the near future," said Brewer. "I've seen enough growth from him this year that I'm interested in seeing him get another shot next year. I'm certainly not ready to call him a franchise quarterback or even long term starter yet... But for 2013? Yeah, I see him as the starter."

With DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy out on Sunday, Riley Cooper figures to help Jeremy Maclin. "He's got good size and has a knack for making circus catches," said Brewer. "And hey, he was Tim Tebow's roommate!" Indeed!

Maybe it gives credence to Gruden finding his way to Philadelphia, as long as Cincinnati's current offensive coordinator feels comfortable about taking the "big job" this offseason.

For now the Bengals defense will have to keep a wicked eye on Bryce Brown and Nick Foles.

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