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Bengals offensive film room: Rookie receivers find success against Browns

Cincinnati’s young players contributed heavily in the Battle of Ohio to help churn out a win.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

In diving into the Bengals’ film from this week, there’s just a little bit of talk and a whole lot of film. Against the Browns, Tyler Boyd and Alex Erickson made some nice plays, in addition to some impressive (but forgotten) play by Jake Fisher and Cody Core. That said, I’ll let the tape speak for itself this week because there’s plenty to go over.

Let’s start with Boyd’s reverse on the opening drive.

Lined up on the right hash, showing a trey look to the left side, the Bengals ran the reverse out of their usual power look. Clint Boling was pulling across the line while Jeremy Hill took the handoff before flipping it back to the rookie receiver. The other Bengals receivers ran their men downfield before making some nice blocks. Andy Dalton led the way (kind of) and Andrew Whitworth cut it back to the play side to make a block of his own.

This image is taken right as Boyd is given the reverse from Hill. You can see the Cleveland defense is completely sucked up by the power run look, and there’s plenty of open field for Boyd to work with. The deep safety circled in red is the only free player who can stop him, but Whitworth made a TREMENDOUS block in the open field that sealed the safety. Whit’s block alone added 20 yards to the play and set the tone for the rest of the touchdown drive. Take a look at everything as it plays out in GIF form, It’s a thing of beauty!

This is a type of play the Bengals have typically reserved for Brandon LaFell to try and run, but it seems like the coaching staff is finally comfortable with giving their rookie these opportunities. As a utility player for his entire career, Boyd is more than capable of running these gadget plays, so I hope it continues in the future. But thankfully, Boyd wasn’t the only rookie receiver making plays. Alex Erickson, the young returner from Wisconsin made some plays of his own on Sunday, one of which came off of a well blocked screen play in the second quarter. Let’s take a look at what made it work so well.

You’ll notice Erickson at the bottom of the screen. The corner is tight over him, but Tyler Eifert comes across in motion pre-snap. As a result of the motion, the corner rolls back 9 yards, creating a great screen look. This was something either Dalton or Zampese noticed early on in the game and was saving for this moment. At the snap of the ball, the slot receiver goes to block back on Erickson’s corner while the right side of the offensive line peels off to pick up the rest of the secondary. Erickson moved toward Dalton on what we call a “rocket” screen, allowing time for his linemen to get downfield and set up some blocks for him. The result is a beautifully set up rocket screen that Erickson didn’t really take full advantage of.

The bottom corner is blocked, the right tackle is coming down on the slot corner, and two additional linemen heading downfield on one safety. This very well could have been a touchdown, but Erickson didn’t do a great job of reading his blocks and realizing where he was in relation to his teammates. That’s a weird trait to have when you’re a kick returner, a position that heavily relies on awareness in relation to space on the field. But we can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. You’ll notice he stumbles after a bit and still gets 16 yards, but I feel if he cut this toward midfield, he could have gotten a lot more yardage.

Some additional thoughts I had from this weekend:

  • Jake Fisher only played around 20 snaps this week, but he looked better than he did last week. He’s steadily improving and should see an increased snap count over Eric Winston, to see what he can do.
  • Darqueze Dennard and Margus Hunt didn’t really see much or do much of anything this week. Hunt really doesn’t surprise me, but you’ve got to wonder what’s going on with Dennard. Yes he’s not a good slot corner, but he was brought to Cincinnati to be a boundary guy. I’m surprised he wasn’t at least rotated in against some weak Cleveland receivers.
  • Geno Atkins is playing out of his mind, despite not having the numbers he’s used to having. He just brings havoc to an offensive front against the run and the pass.
  • Not related to film but damn, was that stadium a ghost town? Hue Jackson is planning for the long haul and the Cleveland ownership group agreed to it, but with how unstable Jimmy Haslam is with coaches, I don’t know if I can trust him to hold firm.