On Sunday, the Bengals will be facing an opponent in the Denver Broncos who are the defending Super Bowl champions, but have gone through some fundamental changes since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. One of those changes that the Bengals can potentially take advantage of is the transition from legendary quarterback Peyton Manning to the first year starter, Trevor Siemian. Siemian has a very limited amount of playing experience in the NFL, coming in the form of the two games so far this season and one kneel-down in his rookie year of 2015. But, with a 2-0 start to the 2016 NFL season, it seems as though he has proven himself to be solid quarterback.
"(Siemian) is in the NFL for a reason," defensive end Carlos Dunlap told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. "He’s a rookie when it comes to playing and supposed to make rookie mistakes, but he hasn’t made them yet. So we have to force him. We want to make him throw it very much."
At this point, it is clear that the Bengals don’t want to sleep on a clearly talented player like Siemian. But, going up against such an inexperienced player leaves open multiple opportunities for the Bengals. In particular, bringing a young player like that into a raucous environment like Paul Brown Stadium, The Jungle, could make it tough to get his bearings and make necessary adjustments for his unit.
"It’s tough place to be. Our crowd is awesome. We love playing here. Third down for the offense is tough here," defensive tackle Domata Peko said. "You want your crowd loud and proud and get after this young quarterback. He’s real young. He’s going to have to make a lot of calls. We’re going to go get him. There’s going to be a lot on his plate."
Having an environment like that will give the Bengals an advantage over the inexperienced Siemian, who has to make sure his unit is on the same page before each play. Additionally, it helps the Bengals players on the field to feel all of that energy rocking in their favor.
"That’s what you call home-field advantage. The fans bring great energy. They know when to get loud. They know when to quiet down," defensive end Michael Johnson said. "It just seems loud on third down. I love playing here. It’s one of the loudest places I’ve ever heard, especially on third down. It’s tough to come into The Jungle."
However, creating an environment in which it is too loud for the young quarterback to think, much less control his offense, is just part of the equation for confusing him with a hearty welcome to The Jungle. Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s patented double-A gap blitz scheme has helped the Bengals terrorize quarterbacks across the NFL for the last few years.
In particular, it is a scheme that consistently creates a lot of disruption in the backfield. It doesn’t always result in a sack, but it can be devastating for the mindset of a young quarterback who isn’t going to be quite as comfortable with the playbook and his receivers as an established veteran. It’s an effective tool for the Bengals most of the time, especially when they have the home crowd backing them up.
"There’s been a lot of Double A Gap sacks right out here," Rey said. "We just feel good about playing in our home environment. We play tough. I don’t care what it is. When you’ve got people cheering for you, you get pumped up. Even when you’re tired… I love playing at home."
Energy and precision will be the name of the game this week. Last week, the Bengals’ pass rush produced quite a lot of pressures, but only a single sack. Against a veteran quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger who has made a career of scrambling around in the backfield and finding an open receiver, that’s not incredibly effective. But, this week they will be up against the Broncos’ young, impressionable quarterback who’s so far has kept things conservative. On top of that, the Broncos have an offensive line that will be missing its starting right tackle in Donald Stephenson. Heading into the draft, Siemian was noted as having issues with poor decision making, while under pressure, and poor footwork that can lead to turnovers. The Bengals will certainly be hoping to foster the kind of environment to encourage those tendencies to return.
"The crowd noise is what helps our get-off," linebacker Vincent Rey said. "The D-linemen we have with their size on the outside and then inside timing up the snap count helps us. We do a good job of communicating. We have an idea. You know what’s coming so we really don’t have to hear each other. So everybody on defense knows what to do based on formation."