Three questions facing the Bengals against the Browns


Taking a look at three questions heading into Sunday's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.

How will Vincent Rey follow up last week's performance?

The NFL announced on Wednesday that linebacker Paul Posluszny won the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance during Jacksonville's 29-27 win over the Tennessee Titans. Posluszny registered eight tackles, a forced fumble and a recovery. One of the notes provided by the NFL is that Posluszny is that he helped limit the Titans offense to only 362 total yards.

(Laughing out loud)

Had the Bengals won, this discussion goes in a significant different direction. Then again, the Jaguars winning a regular season game is like most teams winning the Super Bowl. So congratulations to Jacksonville, who can take a straight shot down I-95 and I-4 to Disney World.

Linebacker Vincent Rey registered a team-high 13 tackles, three quarterback sacks, an interception, three tackles for loss, three passes defensed, and three additional hits on the quarterback. Hold on. Let me catch my breath. And counter to the NFL's note on Posluszny, Rey was part of a defense that held the Baltimore Ravens to only 189 yards of total offense -- and three of 16 on third downs.

Validating a player's award based on his team's outcome completely abandons the idea of how well a player played. It's not Rey's fault that the offense turned over the football four times and couldn't beat up on a Ravens team that felt just as lifeless entering last week.

But that story has been written, a chapter closed as the page is being turned.

With Rey Maualuga returning to practice on Friday, the starting linebacker still remains doubtful and his eventual return appears likely after the Bye Week. That means Vincent Rey will likely get his second start this year against the Browns. The curious-minded asks, how will he follow up one of the most under-the-radar performances from last week?

How will the Bengals offensive line change?

With Kevin Zeitler out this weekend against the Browns, some are theorizing that the Bengals could slide Andrew Whitworth to left guard, Clint Boling to right guard, and Anthony Collins to left tackle. Considering that those are three of your better offensive linemen, that makes sense.

Yet, you are asking that two offensive linemen are moved from their native positions to accommodate one injury. It's not that there's inexperience there, or even a degradation of projected production. Anthony Collins, who reduced the impact of Whitworth's injury this year, could be a starter regardless. Whitworth was the team's starting left guard in 2008 while the Bengals nostalgically hung onto Levi Jones a season too long. Boling momentarily replaced Bobbie Williams in 2011 when the latter served a four-game suspension; he was eventually benched after a poor start.

Giving credence to this projection is that this was Cincinnati's lineup when Zeitler was forced out of the game earlier this year against Cleveland. Then again, it's not like the Bengals had a choice. Mike Pollak and Tanner Hawkinson were inactive in that game, forcing the Bengals to play musical offensive linemen.

If the Bengals decide to play the same tune this weekend, I have no problems there. On the other hand, it might be something as simple as Pollak replacing Zeitler this weekend, leaving Whitworth and Boling at the positions that they've played all season -- why move people around when you need just one replacement, could be a prevailing though. Unlike last time, Pollak has had most of the team's first-team snaps during practice this and there's genuine preparation.

Plus, he'll actually be active.

Can the Bengals overcome their mistakes?

As we pointed out in our keys discussion earlier, the Bengals offense has spent more time overcoming their own mistakes than anything that the opposing defense has thrown at them.

After conquering discussions as being one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, Cincinnati's front five has suddenly struggled against teams that sport a good pass rush while sporting exotic schemes. Andy Dalton has been sacked 10 times in the past two games, and has been forced to scramble just as much. Despite picking up some yards, he's not a running quarterback and struggles even more while throwing on the run.

The pressure has been bad, but the turnovers have been worse.

Dalton has thrown six interceptions in the past two games and seven in the past three. Detractors will enthusiastically point and say, "see?!" while others recognize that Dalton's supporting cast hasn't been all that... supportive (drops, bad routes, pass protection). Dalton has also lost a fumble, totaling seven turnovers during the Bengals two-game skid against the Dolphins and Ravens.

Then last week the Bengals recorded an alarming amount of penalties, but at least only five yards were on the offense during their delay of game (the rest were on special teams and defense).

The Bengals can be as good as anyone on both sides of the ball -- hell, all three phases. The mistakes have kept them grounded but if they've able to get a handle on those, there are few teams in the NFL that can beat the Bengals.

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