If you’re looking for bulletin board material for the Bengals in their upcoming game against the New England Patriots, don’t get your hopes up. The Patriots have always been masters of saying the right things and keeping focused on their game-plan, rather than saying anything negative about their opponents.
The last time the Bengals and Patriots played, in 2014, it was all about being “on to Cincinnati” in any press conference where Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had to answer for the team’s blowout 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs the previous week. This time around, the Patriots are coming off a blowout win up against the Browns and now move on to the Bengals who recently suffered a tough loss. But, the Patriots are still preferring to say nice things about their upcoming opponents in lieu of pointing out weaknesses they can exploit.
“I have a great amount of respect for the way this franchise started with Paul Brown and Mike [Brown] and Pete [Brown] and the job that they do,” Belichick said in a press conference on Wednesday.“ Marvin [Lewis] obviously does a great job, his staff.”
However, despite the very toned down and diplomatic nature of Belichick’s comments, he also recognizes a threat when he sees one. Despite being slowed down quite a bit in Dallas last week, there is one area of the Bengals’ team that Belichick specifically made a point to focus on: A.J. Green.
“The quickest; very quick. He has good stop and start quickness, he's a very good intermediate route runner,” he said. “I'd say there is a number of those players you talked about [that] are really just two level players; short catch-and-run, and deep speed, built speed type routes. Green's very good at intermediate routes, comebacks, in-cuts, curls, routes like that. He has great quickness at the top of his route and excellent hands so he's able to extend and create separation with his length and his catching skills”
Recognizing the kind of talent that Green possesses is one thing, but Belichick took his praise a step farther, utilizing the revered ‘e’ word: elite.
“He's very fast. He's an elite player. He's just an elite player,” Belichick said. “There's no real weak points in his game; short, intermediate, catch-and-run, deep, ball skills, quickness, ability to really defeat any type of coverage, size, speed, quickness. He's a hard guy to handle.”
That said, Green is just part of the equation to the threat that the Bengals bring to the table, according to Belichick. The Bengals employ multiple offensive weapons in their scheme, such as former Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell. who has quietly been a very effective weapon for the Bengals this season behind Green.
Through the first five weeks, LaFell ranks as the 47th rated wide receiver in the nation in yards per game (55.2). His two touchdowns rank behind only seven other players who have caught 21 or less passes so far this season. For a guy sitting behind one of the NFL’s premier wide receivers in Green, those are impressive stats.
That said, guys like Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah, Giovani Bernard, and others have made an impact on the Bengals’ offense, which ranks fourth in total passing yards this season (1,413).
“They're very explosive offensively,” Belichick said. “They have great skill players and a solid offensive line and a good quarterback. Defensively, a very disruptive front. They have a lot of heavy hitters at linebacker and safety, talented corners.”
Through the first five weeks of the 2016 NFL season, the Bengals haven’t done much to give playoff contending teams like the Patriots a reason to fear them. That’s especially true for the offensive line, which Belichick strangely chose to praise despite the fact that they have given up 17 sacks this season. But, as most teams do, the Patriots recognize that the Bengals possess the kind of talent that, if they aren’t careful, could sneak up on them and turn into a big problem.
“Right now I'm just trying to get the team ready to play the Bengals,” Belichick said. “They're a really good football team.”