The Cincinnati Bengals' biggest strengths are pretty well known.
Everyone knows about the defensive line that features Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, one of the best end/tackle combos in the NFL. You also know about an immensely talented receiver group that features A.J. Green, one of the game's best at what he does.
However, Football Outsiders (via ESPN) pointed out a pair of Bengals strengths you may not be aware of. In an assessment of every NFL team's sneaky-good strengths, they focused on the Bengals' lack of offensive penalties, as well as the great pass defense the team has on the right side of the field.
Offense: Avoiding Penalties
The Bengals were dead last in 2016 with just 44 offensive penalties and 273 offensive penalty yards.
Defense: Deep right
Cincinnati had the league's best defense on passes to the deep right portion of the field. It allowed a catch rate of just 24 percent (compared to 38 percent for the league average) and had four interceptions.
The deep right of the field is where Dre Kirkpatrick is normally roaming, which further reinforces the notion that he had a great 2016 season. He still had his struggles, but Kirkpatrick made it much harder for opposing offenses to find success on him than in previous seasons.
Kirkpatrick showed enough flashes to think he’ll be a good, if not great corner in the long-term. At age 27 with just two full seasons of being a starter under his belt, there’s reason to believe Kirkpatrick is only going to get better during the course of his next contract, which turned out to be a five-year deal he signed this offseason that pays him more than $50 million.
Of course, there were other corners who lined up on the right side at various points and helped contribute to this dominance. One of whom was Josh Shaw, who has become a solid slot corner, and he actually made a game-sealing interception on the right side vs the New York Jets in Week 1. Darqueze Dennard also spent time on both the left and right sides, though he was a mixed bag at best.
As for the offense, it's good to see they avoid penalties better than most teams, especially on the offensive line. It’s also nice to see that pointed out for all national football fans to see. The Bengals’ offense can't afford to have any penalty issues considering how much the line struggled last year, and it's still a major question mark heading into next season. Things like false starts, holding penalties, block in the backs and chop blocks can be drive-killing infractions, so it’s good to see the offensive line largely avoided those in 2016.
That’s who accounts for most offensive penalties, though the skill players also can have problems with these. However, we rarely see guys like Green get flagged for something like an illegal motion penalty or offensive pass interference.
There’s also Andy Dalton who has been very good at managing the clock and avoiding delay of game penalties, not to mention grounding penalties, which are effectively taking a sack.
What do you think the Bengals’ sneaky-good strengths are?