The story of Cincinnati in the first week of NFL play was missed chances. The Cincinnati Bengals had 12 possessions in the game on Sunday and were unable to convert one of those drives into points, despite reaching the red zone three times.
Cody Core had two big opportunities for the Bengals to get on the board in their game against the Ravens, and showed a peek into what John Ross may have in store for the upcoming season.
The first opportunity for Core came in the second quarter on a 3rd and 9 where Andy Dalton and the offense were trying to extend the drive. At this point in the game, Cincinnati was only down three to nothing, and was still very much in the game. The Bengals lineup with four receivers spread out.
Tyler Eifert is lined up close to the line in what could be a spot to block, as the Ravens have put seven men in the box, five of which are standing upright. The Ravens are showing two deep safeties, which looks bad for the play the Bengals have lined up.
But as Dalton snaps the ball, the Ravens shift, dropping a corner deep, leaving two guys on the right side, covering two receivers. The slot receiver takes off up the seam, then cuts to the boundary forcing the safety up to cover him, since the cornerback is trying to cover Cody Core.
The cornerback hesitates, considering moving up to cover the slot receiver who has cut right at the first down marker. Dalton sees this and decides to take advantage of the chance to hit Core down the sideline for a huge play. The Safety over the top had run right to help with A.J. Green who the Bengals sent short, and has to work his way back across the field, and is too late to help, meaning Core is one on one with the cornerback and has two to four on him.
Core accelerates as the pass gets closer showing some incredible speed, but Dalton puts the throw too far out of bounds, essentially taking points off the board.
Had Dalton been able to put this pass farther up the field, this could have been six points as the cornerback on the play had essentially given up and the deep man was nearly seven to ten yards away from Core towards the middle of the field.
With A.J. Green drawing the major coverage from the Ravens, Core was able to find a one on one matchup to exploit. When John Ross enters the field for Cincinnati, he could benefit from plays like this, where the defense has to account for Green and even Tyler Eifert, and could get caught sleeping deep down the field.
In the fourth quarter, Dalton targeted Core again on a similar play, this time on first down. Dalton is in the shotgun again with four receivers, this time with the Ravens putting six in the box, and bringing on an extra defensive back. The Ravens implement a one deep zone scheme with the corners playing man.
The Bengals send the two outside receivers deep down the sidelines, forcing the safety into choosing one receiver to help cover. The safety is right in the middle of the field, when Dalton turns and throws to Cody Core who, at the time, is step for step with the cornerback.
Core tracks the ball well though and creates just enough separation to make the grab, but again, Dalton’s throw is poor. Core does have a chance at this one though as it’s under thrown and pulled too far to the inside. Core dives, but can’t snag the ball which dips quickly to the turf.
Dalton was under no pressure, and had he put this one into the endzone on the throw, he may have had Core for the Bengals first score of the season. Instead, Core pounds the turf frustrated and the Bengals have to line up for 2nd down. With faster receivers like Core and John Ross, Dalton will have to learn to throw them deeper down the field since they seem to show the speed to be able to go and catch up to the pass.
Under throwing a speed receiver is one way to frustrate fans. Dalton when throwing deep to A.J. Green can get away with some of those shorter throws because Green can adjust and make the grab.
Once John Ross returns to the active depth chart for Cincinnati, the coaching staff should give him some shots on some of these deeper routes, and if Dalton can line the throws up, the Bengals could be setting up matchup nightmares as defenses try to account for A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and a speedy receiver on the outside.