clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Weekly Lineman: Pistol formation gives Bengals fits, Bodine giveth and Bodine taketh away

The Bills’ pistol formation made many appearances against the Bengals’ base and nickel fronts. Bodine and Bernard each made crucial blocks in Week 11.

Buffalo Bills v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We’re 11 weeks into the season and I can safely say nothing the Bengals’ offensive or defensive lines have done has surprised me this season. That includes what I saw this past Sunday against the Bills in the depths of the trenches. What exactly stood out though? Let’s dive into this week’s offensive and defensive line play from the Bengals in their loss to the Bills.

Pistol woes

On the Bills’ first possession, Tyrod Taylor and company drove down the field with ease against a Bengals defense without Vontaze Burfict, and capped it off with a seven yard LeSean McCoy touchdown run out of the pistol formation. There were four key blocks made by the Bills that helped this to happen:

  1. Tight end Nick O’Leary pulled around the line to at least impede left defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who is the defender responsible for reading the option handoff in the backfield.
  2. Right tackle Jordan Mills performed an effective reach block on defensive tackle Pat Sims, as Sims got no push toward McCoy. He was eventually ridden out of the play.
  3. Center Ryan Groy and left guard Richie Incognito produced a deuce block on nose tackle Domata Peko. As Groy successfully chipped Peko and advanced toward the MIKE linebacker Vincent Rey in the second level, Incognito locked and turned Peko, which turned into the key block to seal the hole for McCoy, who changed the direction of the play when he realized his primary read was clogged.
  4. Left tackle Cordy Glenn did a phenomenal job of using his length and quickness against right defensive Michael Johnson to mirror him against McCoy four yards in the backfield, sealing the opposite side of the eventual hole.

The result of all these was McCoy waltzing into the end zone and the Bills getting an early seven point advantage:

While the press box viewpoint highlights just how dominant Glenn’s block was on Johnson, the end zone viewpoint really showcases how impressive it was for Incognito to maintain positioning against Peko and turn him away from the play:

This would not be the last time the Bills successfully ran the pistol at the Bengals, but we don’t have to go in depth, let’s just look at one more play.

Early in the fourth quarter, Wallace Gilberry came in for Dunlap at left defensive end and bit badly on a designed Taylor run. The Bills have running back Mike Gillislee and tight end Charles Clay aligned behind the right tackle and right guard, and have them flow to the weak side of the formation along with the entire rest of the Bills offensive line. Meanwhile, Taylor and running back Reggie Bush took off the other way, with an out of position Gilberry being the only thing standing in Taylor’s way of a first down.

Gilberry has to maintain containment, and can’t let himself get that far inside due to the flow of the Bills personnel, and the false step Rey commits didn’t help his case either. The Bengals have had trouble against read option and running quarterbacks whenever they’ve faced them all year long, and it’s contain issues like this that have been the primary contributors to that.

Bodine’s mixed day

One of the most frequent topics we’ve covered this year is how the Bengals interior line has handled stunts. Early in the first quarter, center Russell Bodine had one of his most impressive reps all year, in the midst of a stunt.

This is some good field awareness by Bodine, he knows where to dispose of MIKE linebacker Preston Brown, as he sets up nose tackle Kyle Williams’s loop into Bodine. Then, the third year center did something I so rarely see from him, he anchored down and reset his hands, against a very very good nose tackle nonetheless in Williams. When they meet at the point of attack, Williams has the immediate advantage as he has Bodine on his heels, but Bodine seamlessly got under Williams and established leverage, stunting Williams’ momentum and giving quarterback Andy Dalton extra time to get his throw off.

It was a very good rep against two very good players, but Brown remembered it later on in the game.

Here, the Bengals have eight blockers against the Bills’ base package, but even with a numbers advantage, if one key block fails, the whole play underwhelms. That is exactly what happened with Bodine. The play call was a simple iso run for running back Jeremy Hill, all interior blocks in both A gaps were executed, and he had a chance to gain extra yardage, if Bodine was just able to negate Brown in the second level. But alas, Brown discarded Bodine to the side and stopped Hill after a three yard gain.

These two plays do a solid job of representing the gradual evolution of Bodine, a player who’s still limited in his capabilities and whose flashes of competence are overshadowed by glaring inconsistencies. At least we’ve gotten to him being inconsistent instead of consistently bad.

What we’ll miss about Gio

Running back Giovani Bernard went down with a torn ACL injury during this game as you may well know by now, but he got in one last great blitz pickup before his season was abruptly ended.

The Bills were sending the aforementioned Brown on an A gap blitz, so Dalton moved Bernard to the threatened gap for him to pick up Brown. And like he usually does, he got the job done:

Cincy Jungle’s own Anthony Cosenza wrote a fantastic article earlier this month breaking down Bernard’s underrated ability to pass protect, and all of his skills are on display in this play. He starts low and stays low, catching Brown while taking a step back to explode his leverage off his left foot. This forces Brown to the right, and clears Dalton space to make the throw.

Bernard is electric with the ball in his hands, but his true value as a three down player. He can be used as a pass protector, and is highly consistent at being one. It’s something he’s improved upon every year he’s been in the league, and it’s something we all hope he maintains when he comes back from injury.

So, the Bengals play the Ravens for the first time all year without two of their best offensive playmakers, but what I’ll be watching for is how the interior of this offensive line does when going up against the Ravens Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce, who are all very good players. I expect the Bengals to run with Jeremy Hill early and often without Green and Bernard, so the battle of the game should be right down their alley.