Luckily for everyone involved, this is just preseason action, and plenty of the team’s mistakes are fixable problems that can easily be corrected. That said, it would be a crime for me to not bring attention to just what’s going on with the Bengals’ passing attack. The offensive line has justifiably been open to criticism since losing its two biggest stars in the offseason, but there were plenty of problems Saturday with the backfield as well. Across the board this offense needs to get better with pressure by the time Week 1’s game against the Baltimore Ravens rolls around. However, not all was bad, and the Cincinnati run game continues to show some signs of promise.
Ogbuehi’s best block of his career
I watched this play at least four times because I was so impressed with it. The Bengals obviously had this counter trey concept ingrained into their game plan this week, as it was used consistently to great effect. Cedric Ogbuehi followed Clint Boling on the play and both men cleanly finished their blocks in order to give Jeremy Hill room to run. These are the plays Ced needs to bring to the table every week. The guy is getting better each and every week. If you’re one of those people ready to hit the panic button on the former first rounder, I would ease your hand away for a bit - the guy might finally be hitting his stride.
Tra Carson joins the fun
Again, notice the Bengals using a counter look, although this isn’t the same counter trey play as above. This time, the team brings Christian Westerman and the flexed tight end/h-back in order to seal blocks. Carson sells wonderfully with a nice counter step and uses good vision to quickly find a hole. Young backs are sometimes indecisive because in college there’s usually a good hole and a “better” hold to run through. Carson does a great job to take what he can get and make the most out of it. Bursting through the line with great acceleration he doesn’t leave his lineman’s effort in vain as he picked up another first down. The Bengals have a wonderful problem this year with what seems like five backs who are capable of making the roster. Right now if I had to decide I would be keeping Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Joe Mixon, and Carson, with long time Bengals special team ace Cedric Peerman being the odd man out.
Earlier, I mentioned the Bengals had issues with the Chiefs’ pass rush, but that the issues came from both the line and the backfield. The play above is an issue where the defense fooled Andy Dalton, and Dalton didn’t put his guys in the right protection to help him. Notice at the snap of the ball, the line slides to the left, with fullback Ryan Hewitt helping on the right end of the line. This is because Dalton has the team prepared for heavy left side pressure the Chiefs never bring. Instead, the Chiefs bring pressure right up the middle, and the Bengals don’t have the manpower inside to stop it. Hewitt and Ogbuehi are both left without men to block because they aren’t in the right protection. Dalton simply gets fooled here and he can’t afford to let that happen.
Quarterbacks were largely to blame for the sacks taken against the Chiefs, and Jeff Driskel is no exception. Here Driskel gets adequate protection, although his man on his blindside is beaten wide outside. Driskel did well to diagnose the pressure and roll out, but he held onto the ball for far too long and took a sack. Yes, it’s third down so you can argue he’s trying to pick up the first and what’s the point if he loses some yardage, but NFL coaches will tell you to pick your battles and fight another down. Particularly in a 30-12 deficit of a Week 2 preseason game, your coach is more concerned about your health than you picking up a double sticks first down in a lost game. For all the things Driskel did right last week, this is just a sign of how much he still has to learn as an NFL quarterback.
A Bengal Bailout
This is an example of Dalton escaping pressure to extend a play, and it’s likely something he’s going to have to do a lot this season with a retooled offensive front. Both Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher are beaten around the edge and Dalton waited for the last possible second before the pocket collapsed to roll out and hit an open man. By no means were Ogbuehi and Fisher’s performances the worst lineman effort of the night (that would go to Andre Smith who gave up a sack so horrible I didn’t want any of you to relive it, so I didn’t show it). But, as the young tackles progress, their quarterback is going to continue to have to help them and make plays that veteran quarterbacks with more capable lines don’t have to worry about.