Before we get under way, I just wanted to apologize for no article about the Broncos loss. Due to the short turnaround and the coaches film not being released until Tuesday, it wasn’t possible for me to produce the quality of writing and analysis that I felt comfortable with. But, no more skipped games from here on out. I’ll be here through February.
Geno gets low
This week, we’re going to start with how elite defensive tackle Geno Atkins managed to sack quarterback Ryan Tannehill with his own guard.
Yes, that one.
Late in the fourth Quarter, the Bengals ran a tackle stunt on a 1st and 10 with their nickel personnel on the field. The objective of this concept is to get exactly what occurred: by pulling Atkins around Hunt, he is able to produce more force at the point of attack and convert speed to power.
It’s difficult for guards to handle because it’s easy to get blindsided by the stunt, but that’s just not the case here. Right guard Jermon Bushrod recognized the stunt immediately and pushed Hunt into center Kraig Urbik, and was set to engage Atkins. The issue is, Atkins was way lower than Bushrod at contact, giving up too much ground.
Bushrod utilized what looks like a variant of a hop step, which is simply taking decent sized steps back to re-set your feet in pass protection, but the force Atkins produces is just too much for Bushrod to handle, and he was forced straight back into Tannehill.
It’s a simple philosophy Atkins embodies, but he puts it into action better than practically anyone in the league: leverage is king. Plays like these are why teams aren’t so scared of drafting defensive tackles that measure in around six feet, 300 pounds anymore.
Dunlap and Clarke get bendy
Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller has it easy, being 6’2”, it is a lot easier for him to get low when cornering the edge like he does so well.
For players like defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Will Clarke, it isn’t so seamless to do. Which is why it’s so impressive when it happens.
Just before the two-minute warning in the 2nd Quarter, the Bengals show a double a-gap blitz in their base personnel, a common look in this defense. Right at the snap, Dunlap has already won. Right tackle Ja’Wuan James comes out very shaky out of his stance and fails to mirror Dunlap in his stance, who already has an edge at this point.
Just look at how different James and left tackle Laremy Tunsil come out of their stance, James is in the process of oversetting and have his kick slide be completely out of whack, while Tunsil looks concise and controlled:
Right from there, it was not good for James and too easy for Dunlap:
As he’s climbing the edge, Dunlap does a great job of using the one arm is longer than two concept, as he shortens his climb ever-so-slightly with the swipe and rip. But the end zone angle doesn’t showcase the bend Dunlap got here, the replay angle does however:
Unfortunately for Tunsil, his jump out of his stance was soon forgotten when Will Clarke handled him with ease by getting in his chest, and Clarke would’ve sacked Tannehill if Dunlap didn’t. It was very smart of Clarke to tap the loose ball to Domata Peko for the recovery, but Clarke was not done yet.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Bengals lined up in nickel again on a second-and-10. At the snap, Clarke is quickly engaged by tight end Dion Sims, who lined up off the line of scrimmage, and his momentum and timing of the rush is barely altered. Tunsil initially looks to his right, under the assumption that Sims’ block would last longer than half a second, and is late to beat Clarke to the edge:
But just like with Dunlap, he is able to turn the corner at the top and get around the tackle, which again, is not easy to do for a tall end. This is uncommon for a player that stands six feet, six inches:
It looks awkward because his lower body isn’t fully in sync and fluid like what you would always see with Dunlap (which is also very rare and a further testament to the type of player Dunlap is), but there are ends out there that have trouble turning the corner, which is why it’s bull rush or die for them. This is progress for Clarke, who seems to be putting it all together in year three.
Pulling on the goal line is bad
Lastly, we know the Bengals like to pull their guards, but it’s come to my attention that they’re doing it too much and in the wrong circumstances.
For example, the goal line is a terrible place to pull your guards because the execution takes time to do, and the less space for the blocks to operate, the better for the defense.
It’s the middle of the third quarter, first-and-goal at the two yard line, and the Bengals try to get in the end zone by pulling right guard Kevin Zeitler across the line of scrimmage.
Attempt number one:
Attempt number two on the very next snap:
A bit predictable, no?
There’s simply not enough space for the lead blockers, half-back Ryan Hewitt and Zeitler in this case, to get out in front, and with the safeties and corners in the box as well, it doesn’t take long for them to converge on the play and basically outnumber the blockers in front of Hill. The blockers did all they could do, but this is just not putting your players in a position to win.
It really irked me to see this because you just knew from the start that it was destined to fail, and it did. It also makes me question if they trust the interior of the line (or a specific player) to get push up the middle, and they’re running power so much to try and negate that issue. Well, when defensive coordinators end up watching this tape, they’ll see a resounding consistency in the play-calling, and if things don’t change, it’s hard to expect improvement.
The Bengals play the Dallas Cowboys next week and it should be a great and even battle up front, especially between the Bengals defensive line and the Cowboys offensive line.
Whomever wins, you’ll find the context to that victory right here.