Entering Week 1 of the 2017 season, the biggest question mark of the entire team was whether a largely retooled offensive line would be able to hold up. One game into the campaign we were given an emphatic “No.”
The Baltimore Ravens have a fantastic front seven on defense, and they should have a lot of success on that side of the ball this year. That said, the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t show very many glimmers of hope by handling it as poorly as they did.
This was a game where the offense absolutely lost the game for the defense, but the blame was a trickle down effect. A poor offensive game plan and play calling put the offensive line in a bad position.
That, in turn, led to Andy being given next to no time to make throws for the majority of the day, which leads to mistakes, which leads to turnovers, and that ends in chaos.
Much of the talk about the team’s offensive line revolves around the team’s young tackles, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, as weak spots. But there are general cohesion issues and mistakes across the board. Inside, Outside, in the backfield, it’s happening everywhere.
Here the Ravens come with a high pressure blitz look where they send six. Luckily, the Bengals leave in seven men to block for Dalton. The numbers are in the team’s favor and they still collapse. Judging by this protection and the actions by Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard, the tackles are responsible for the edge pressure.
This means if there is more than one man to block the tackle is taking the outside guy and the backs are picking up the inside rusher. Fisher does just that, passing in the crashing end and stays to pick up the linebacker, who really just feigned pressure and is responsible for covering Bernard if he leaks out.
Gio and Eifert do a poor job of picking up the pressure in time and give up the sack. Ogbuehi also gets played like a fool by Terrell Suggs on the outside, conceding a blatant holding penalty.
This is a look you’ll often see from Baltimore and Pittsburgh so it’s one they should get comfortable with. Andy Dalton played poorly, but he wasn’t being given a lot of time - even when Ken Zampese tried to keep max protection for him.
One thing the Bengals offensive line didn’t handle well last year, and continue to struggle with is the stunt move. For the uninitiated, the stunt is a move where one or more defenders crash down on the offensive line, while another defender loops behind them to try and fill the created space of the crashing defender(s). Check out the picture below for reference.
Here you can see two interior Ravens crashing to the right of the line while outside linebacker Matthew Judon loops around them to attack that guard/tackle gap (commonly referred to as the B gap on defense). The ideal scenario to block this is to pass off defenders to your fellow linemen and have the man on the end pick up the stunting defender.
To reiterate, T.J. Johnson should pass his man to Bodine, Bodine passing his initial man to Boling, and Johnson picking up Judon on the stunt. Let’s see how it plays out:
Bodine and Boling communicate well and hand off the appropriate blocker, although giving up too much ground in the process. Johnson gets rid of his man but is unable to reset himself in time to catch Judon. The pressure by Judon forces Andy to step up in a pocket that doesn’t exist and he’s forced to take a sack. I’m no school teacher, but if I were, I’d probably give that an F.
Glimmers of Hope
While there are very few positives coming out of the game I would feel comfortably saying that after re-watching the film twice Jake Fisher played a better game than I initially thought. He gave up a sack and too many pressures, but he was finishing blocks often and getting himself downfield on runs. He was called for holding twice on the day, but I thought they were fairly ticky-tack calls that I wouldn’t have thrown a flag on.
I have no question that in time Fisher is going to blossom into a long term starter at right tackle, and a good one in that. I feel considerably less confident about Ogbuehi who hasn’t shown anything yet since being drafted.
What the Bengals can, and need to, do in order to compensate for their under-performing line is taking advantage of good looks the defense gives them. It’s something Ken Zampese didn’t do enough of on Sunday. Here’s an example of where he did take what he was being given.
Here Baltimore is only keeping six, potentially seven if you count Eric Weddle but I think he’s too far off the ball to be considered “in the box.” If this look is given to you, you should run the ball 100% of the time. The Bengals have all the bodies they need to put a hat on a hat and Gio only has to make one man miss to find some huge yardage.
This would be an example of the double teams and blocks in an ideal scenario for the Bengals on this particular play. The Ravens are giving the Bengals the run game here and they take it. Everyone on the defensive front can be accounted for with a blocker and leaves a safety (Weddle, circled in blue) as the only player that has a shot of Gio before he can break a 10 yard gain.
The Bengals have a TON of weapons on offense, but the lack of a steady line will hurt this team throughout the year. In order to get the playmakers the ball, Ken Zampese is going to have to do some extremely creative scheming to compensate for the offensive line.
The only problem is, where I felt completely comfortable in Hue Jackson or Jay Gruden’s ability to be creative, I feel like Zampese is going to be incapable of scheming the proper offense to give this team long-term success.