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Film Room: Russell Bodine Shows Improvement From Preseason

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All things considered, rookie center Russell Bodine played well against the Baltimore Ravens in his first NFL regular season start.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Going into Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens, my concern with Russell Bodine was at red alert level.

But, in one of the loudest stadiums in the league and against one of the most physical defensive lines, Bodine did a lot to ease my concerns.

Bodine made the proper protection calls throughout the game and didn't have any bad snaps. As a whole, the offensive line protected Dalton to the point of perfection. In fact, Dalton and Drew Brees were the only quarterbacks not to take a sack in week 1. Dalton was barely even touched, as ESPN Stats & Info recorded Dalton as taking zero quarterback hits (he was tackled on a blown up screen play and a cheap shot after a read option handoff).

Credit Bodine for making the correct protection calls in a hostile environment, and credit Hue Jackson's game plan for calling so many quick throws and screens that the Ravens' defense was too tired and confused to get after the passer.

The Bengals didn't run block as well as they can (Gio finished with a 3.4 yards/carry number, aided by a 16 yard run), so Jackson turned to the quick throws to produce yards instead. The Bengals offense finished with 380 yards of offense from 64 plays (5.9 yards/play), thanks to a solid, but not spectacular showing from the offensive line.

Here are Pro Football Focus' grades for the offensive line in the Ravens game.

Snaps Run Block Grade Pass Block Grade Sacks Hits Hurries
Whitworth 67 -0.2 +2.1 0 0 1
Boling 67 +0.3 +1.2 0 0 0
Bodine 67 -1.3 -0.5 0 0 0
Zeitler 67 -0.7 0.7 0 0 0
Smith 65 +0.8 0.6 0 0 1
Gresham 61 +1.4 0.5 0 0 0

Since two sets of eyes are always better than one, I graded the Bengals interior offensive line as well. Here are my grades.

Run (pos) Run (neg) Pass (pos) Pass (neg) Screen (pos) Screen (neg) Penalites
Boling 17 3 20 1 0 2
Bodine 12 8 17 3 0 2 holding (1)
Zeitler 16 4 20 1 0 2

Jackson's quick throw offense eliminated many plays as neutral or no contest plays.

Bodine has established himself as a passable pass protector to this point. He deals with normal four man rushes with ease and has improved in the area of picking up blitzes and stunts. PFF didn't credit Bodine with any pressures, but I had Bodine down for two pressures allowed. Both are shown below.

Negative Impact Plays In Pass Protection

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This was one of Bodine's few red marks in pass protection. On this play, you can easily see the difference in strength between Haloti Ngata and Bodine. Ngata uses one arm to walk Bodine back into Dalton's lap.

This was the holding call on Bodine. Brandon Williams gets a strong initial punch and uses a swim move to get by Bodine, who holds the center of Williams' jersey and is called for it.

These two plays were outliers to Bodine's solid day in pass protection. He looked very solid against throughout the day on individual blocks. Additionally, centers usually get help from the guards in pass protection, so Bodine will be just fine in this area moving forward.

Positive Impact Plays In Pass Protection

Most of Bodine's positive pass blocks are extremely boring, and come as expected, so I'll spare you the boring ones. First up is a normal play where Boling has help from his guards and Dalton has plenty of time. On this play, Zeitler isn't blocking anyone, so he obliterates Ngata from the side while Bodine is engaged with him.

Here is an atypical positive pass protection play. Haloti Ngata gets upfield to Bodine's left, but Bodine calmly and casually walks Ngata outside and out of harm's way. This allows Dalton to shuffle forward and step into the 77-yard bomb to A.J. Green. The ball went about 54 yards in the air.

Negative Impact Plays in Run Blocking

This play appears to be a designed quarterback draw, because the offensive line goes into run blocking with no one in the backfield. There is a massive hole between the tackles, but Chris Canty sheds the block of Bodine well, and makes the stop. Dalton may have had a touchdown.

On this play, Bodine is shoved several yards into the backfield by Brandon Williams. Jeremy Hill runs around Bodine and still gets four yards, but this is obviously a negative block for Bodine.

Here is another play where Bodine is shoved several yards into the backfield. The defender explodes upfield, disrupting the blocking scheme of the stretch run to the left. Bodine is able to knock the defender to the ground and minimize the damage. However, the upfield push impeded Marshall Newhouse from getting the correct angle on Brandon Williams, and Williams made the stop.

Positive Impact Plays in Run Blocking

Another area in which Bodine showed improvement was getting to the second level and securing a block on a linebacker.

Bodine and Whitworth both get into the second level and get an initial block on the Ravens' inside linebackers. Bodine didn't fully sustain the block, but it was enough for Gio Bernard to get a 16-yard gain anyway.

On this play, Bodine gets to the second level and knocks Daryl Smith several yards backwards. Gio followed the block for a first down. It was one of Bodine's best blocks of the day.

Here, Bodine gets to CJ Mosley and turns Mosley away from the play. Bodine got another solid second level block on CJ Mosley a few plays later.

Conclusion

Going forward, Bodine has eased my concerns in several aspects of his play. First, he made the correct protection calls and snapped the ball well in a hostile environment. Second, he has improved on blitz pickups and looks rock solid as a pass protector on normal rushes. Finally, he has improved in run-blocking by getting several good second level blocks.

He still needs to improve as a run blocker at the line of scrimmage so that he isn't blown into the backfield. Improving his leg drive would help him in these situations. Frankly, he needs to do about a million squats in the next offseason. He also doesn't change direction very well when asked to block on screens. He tends to fall down on these open field plays without fully engaging his defender.

All in all, he played well for a rookie in his first NFL regular season start. He still has a lot of improving to do, but he isn't the glaring weakness that we saw in the first three preseason games. The Bengals may have found their center of the future.