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Weekly Lineman: Atkins and Co. find Savage early; Clowney and Co. find Dalton later

Geno Atkins and Wallace Gilberry used similar tactics to get to Texans quarterback Tom Savage early in Saturday Night’s game.

Wherever you go, and whatever you do, timing is important. Just like how timing is what makes you early or late to your bus stop, timing is what makes some football plays tremendous and others horrendous. As a matter of fact, timing is the most vital aspect of the game. And like all things in football, you can see the very best and the very worst in the trenches.

Timing is what got the Bengals back-to-back sacks on quarterback Tom Savage midway through the first quarter.

The Texans started their second drive of the night from their own 26 yard-line, and the eighth wonder in the world, known to us as Geno Atkins, arose from his perceived “slumber”.

Interior and edge rushers align in separate spots and attack separate gaps, but the core concepts of attacking those gaps are very similar.

The first and most important objective is the timing of the get-off:

Atkins’ explosion coming out of his three-point stance, timed to near perfection from the snap of the ball, gave him the overwhelming advantage against the right guard Jeff Allen. His ability to generate a significant amount of force in short distances, and getting his hands inside the guard, allows him to gain ground.

To finish, he keeps his hands fully active throughout the rush, which at that point, is too much for the guard to handle, as he discards him with a swim move:

This was the second time Savage went down already, and he wouldn’t get a break on the very next snap. With the sack taking the Texans back seven yards, it became second-and-17. This time, it was Wallace Gilberry from the opposite 3-technique spot to break through:

When experts talk about snap explosion, snapshots like this are what they would use to visualize it:

Gilberry’s timing of the snap is absurdly quick. But like what we see with Atkins, it’s only the first half of the rep for the rusher. His pad level must stay low while engaging, and his hands must remain active to not let the guard try and recover. Gilberry does exactly these two things and wins the one-on-one:

This is what happens when you combine metrics and technique. Gilberry may not be the most consistently explosive 1-gap defender, in fact I’ve never seen him explode off the line like this before, but his timing and burst, combined with his hand usage, created quality production.

That was all Gilberry could give on Saturday, but Atkins wasn’t done yet. On the Texans second possession of the second quarter, he made a play on each down to force another punt.


For first-and-10, Atkins is lined up at 3-tech and meets running back Alfred Blue in the backfield, allowing his teammates to clean up what he started:

The best players are always equally cerebral and imposing. Watch Geno’s first step. When everyone attacks downhill, Geno goes almost sideways. He recognized presnap what the playcall was, a simple iso run up the A gap, and leveraged his man laterally, so he could create his own lane to Blue. When you have this much power, you can dictate where the offensive lineman goes. Atkins didn’t finish the play, but he made it easy for his teammates to stop Blue behind the line.

Now it’s second-and-10, Atkins is lined up on the other side of the center, again at 3-tech. He’s again the first to meet Blue, and this time finishes the stop:

It’s not as impressive as the snap prior, but it’s still a good play. The delayed handoff got Atkins slightly out of the gap, but his closing ability shut down the hole pretty quickly with no help from Gilberry or the middle linebacker, which was Vincent Rey on this snap.

With that five yard gain, it became third-and-five, and this time, the Bengals went into a bear front, with Atkins on the nose of the center as a 0-tech:

As Savage tried to convert through the air, he’s met with pressure from the left edge and from up the middle, as Shawn Williams came unblocked from the edge, and Atkins took center Greg Mancz for a ride:

Williams got credit for the pressure as a QB hit, but something has to be said about Savage’s own center hitting him when he released the ball at the top of a three step drop. Because when Atkins is on, you damn well notice it.


After that three-and-out for the Texans, the Bengals offense took over, and I’d like to use this tweet as a foreshadowing device to tell you how it went:

The Bengals are on their own 41 yard-line and it’s third-and-three. Take a guess as to what happens:

What have we talked about all year long with Ogbuehi? Everything that you saw in this rep against Jadeveon Clowney. Everything is ok until he gets to the point of attack. He tries to catch Clowney. He fails. He tries to get control of him. He fails. He tries to reset his feet. He fails.

If I said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Players don’t change. You can put them in different spots that they say they’re more comfortable in, but if they can’t handle the simple basics of the position at its core, it won’t make a difference in the end. Even though the Bengals lost, you have to think that Andrew Whitworth got a lot more valuable in the Bengals’ near future. Because unless something miraculous happens, there’s no way the team can feel comfortable with Ogbuehi starting next year.

For the first time in six years, the Bengals will be playing a Week 17 game with zero playoff implications, as both the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati are eliminated from postseason contention with the six AFC teams clinched. I expect the Bengals to keep the same group on the offensive line, as left guard Clint Boling has been placed on Injured Reserve. The team will again try to see if Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher can finish the season on a high note against one of the best defenses in the league this season.