If the Bengals are to win in Baltimore this week and send the Ravens to an 0-3 start, the trench warfare will likely be a big part of why they're victorious.
Baltimore has already ruled out Eugene Monroe ahead of Sunday's matchup. The starting left tackle is Joe Flacco's blindside protector, and since losing him to a concussion, that position has become a glaring weakness.
Monroe suffered his concussion early in the Week 1 loss in Denver, leaving second-year man James Hurst to fill in, and he'll continue to do so this Sunday. That's really bad news for Baltimore as Hurst has struggled mightily through 1.5 games. Not only is Hurst the lowest-rated Ravens player via Pro Football Focus, but he's ranked 90th out of 90 offensive tackles that have played this season.
In 134 offensive snaps, Hurst has surrendered an NFL-high 12 QB hurries to go with three QB Hits and one sack. That's playing with a fairly mobile QB in Joe Flacco who's not exactly easy to bring down either. To be fair to him, he's had to block the likes of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Khalil Mack, and Justin Tuck so far.
Still, the Bengals are no slouches when it comes to rushing the passer. They're tied for the seventh-most sacks of any team (6) coming into Week 3. The good news for Hurst, as 4.5 of those sacks have come from Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, neither of whom will have to matchup with Hurst much.
Instead, Hurst will spend most of this game trying to block Michael Johnson, who has looked rusty through two games after missing much of the previous month with a sprained MCL. Johnson has a -2.8 PFF grade, the third-worst of any Bengal. He has just one QB hit and two QB hurries in 88 snaps this season.
This game will be a great chance for Johnson to start finding his rhythm and maybe get his first sack of 2015. After all, if Johnson reaches 10 sacks in 2015, he'll receive another $4 million bonus over the rest of his contract with the Bengals.
Whatever happens Sunday, the Bengals need to attack Hurst early and often if they want to stop the Ravens' offense and come out of Baltimore with a 3-0 record.