I was happily surprised to see the Bengals score more than 30 points without Giovani Bernard and A.J. Green on Sunday against the Eagles. Andy Dalton led his offense up and down the field, only punting once the entire afternoon. In celebration of the first win in over a month, I’m going to switch things up with the film room, going more in-depth on a few plays and then add some additional short evaluations at the end. Be sure to let me know what you think by Tweeting me or leaving a comment below.
Attacking the Tampa 2 coverage
Cover 2 is probably the most popular coverage in football across all levels. It’s effective, easy to teach, and is good for stopping mostly everything in the passing game that’s short to intermediate in length. The Bengals used a dagger route concept to attack Philadelphia’s Tampa 2 variation of the Cover 2. To explain in greater detail, let’s first look at how the Eagles’ defense was lined up and what their responsibilities are.
We’ll break this down level by level starting with the defensive line. Both defensive tackles are lined up head up on the guards (this is called a 2-technique). They’re then both going to rush to the outside shoulders of the guards. The one on the top of the screen is going for a straight rush, while the one on the bottom of your screen is opening up a stunt for the defensive end. In the second level, from the linebackers, we see the distinct difference of a Tampa 2 versus a regular Cover 2. In both coverages the outside linebackers have hook zones (in yellow). This means they drop back about 7-10 yards from the line of scrimmage and defend the middle of the field, primarily taking away seams, slants, and crossing routes. The middle linebacker would also typically hook in a Cover 2, but in the Tampa 2 he plays deeper, almost as a third safety. This is useful to take away a deep seam or a post, which can commonly beat Cover 2 coverage. Finally in the secondary the corners have flat zones, meaning they’re responsible for anything short, this is usually coming up on crossing routes or picking up backs leaking out of the backfield. The safeties are playing halves up top, each responsible for 50 percent of the field and always stay deeper than the deepest man on the field.
Now that we know what the Eagles are running, lets see how the Bengals counter it:
Excuse my sloppy drawing. This is a variation of the Dagger combo. The slot and high split receiver are running clearing routes, this is intended to open up Brandon LaFell who is running a 15 yard dig route right in that purple zone. That purple zone, if you compare it to the above image, is a weak point in the Tampa 2 coverage, and the perfect place to attack. In the backfield are double side cars, first tasked with aiding in pass protection (working outside the tackle to keep pressure coming off the edge), then leaking out to the flat as dump-off options. Let’s see how it worked.
A beautiful 23 yard gainer to LaFell. The veteran receiver cuts his dig route off and comes back to the football because Dalton finds a nice hole in the zone coverage. But thankfully even without Brandon’s great route other receivers were open.
Right as the ball is thrown, before much movement is made, you can see the window LaFell has, but there’s also 10 yards of separation between the corners and both men coming out of the backfield. Had Brandon not been there, Dalton would likely have been able to dump it off to Rex Burkhead for a first down. Granted, Dalton obviously make the best decision here, but it’s nice to know how open other guys were, too and the planning by the offensive coordinator.
Other observations of the week
- When everyone is healthy, Jeremy Hill is the third best running back on this team. Aside from the 1-yard goal line runs there’s really nothing Hill gives you that Bernard and Burkhead can’t do as well or better. After amassing 22 carries for 33 yards against the Eagles, Hill is essentially affirming his rookie year was a flash in the pan.
- Cody Core is extremely raw, but he has the tools to succeed in the NFL. I see him very much like a young Mike Wallace. He doesn’t have great routes, but his straight line speed alone makes him a threat.
- Tyler Boyd was well worth the draft pick the Bengals used on him. With four catches for 66 yards on Sunday, Boyd continues to be a solid rookie. With just 23 more yards, he’ll join a club that excludes Chad Johnson, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. He’ll be just the third Bengals rookie since 2000 to amass 500 yards receiving as a rookie (A.J. Green, Jordan Shipley).
- Jake Fisher has a learning curve, but looks more ready than Cedric Ogbuehi to be playing at right tackle. In limited snaps Fisher had ups and downs, but his issues are far different than Ogbuehi. Fisher’s problems are technique based, where the game is too fast and he whiffs on some initial contact. Ogbuehi’s mistakes are physical. He’s often overpowered with a bull rush and can’t make up lost ground. That doesn’t really surprise me, as Ogbuehi isn’t built to be a right tackle, but Fisher is. I get that you want your first rounder to play and you can’t bench Andrew Whitworth (please come back in 2017, Whit), but you can’t ask Ogbuehi to play a power tackle spot when he’s all finesse. Had Fisher started at right tackle all season, there likely would have been growing pains, but would there have been as many as we’ve witnessed with Ogbuehi? We can only wonder.