The Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons are opposites in terms of team success, evident by their current records. But when they faced off against one another on Sunday, they looked like mirror images of each other.
Both offenses had the ball for nearly identical times and ran almost the same amount of plays. Cincinnati had possession for 30:38 compared to 29:22 for Atlanta, and Cincinnati’s offense took 73 snaps to Atlanta’s 70. They each netted similar total first downs (30 for Cincinnati, 25 for Atlanta) and both ran almost the same percentage of successful plays (53.7% for Cincinnati, 56.1% for Atlanta).
The offensive explosion that ensued inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium spurred from each defense vastly relying on their pass rush to mask their glaring weaknesses off the ball. If it wasn’t for each team’s front four, the total points might’ve eclipsed 100.
Eventually, drives did get stalled from protection issues, and each of three sacks from Cincinnati’s defense made significant impacts on the respective drives they occurred in. But we’re going to focus in one only one of the three sacks Atlanta’s defense was responsible for, and a few other reps from arguably the most polarizing player the Bengals have started all year long.
Watching right guard Alex Redmond isn’t painful by any means, you can tell the effort is there on every snap, and that intangible quality is probably why Marvin Lewis holds him in high regard. Redmond also has established what he’s good at and what’s he not good at in a very short amount of time.
I’m prohibited from telling you how many pressures Redmond has given this season up according to Pro Football Focus, but I promise you it is a lot compared to the vast majority of other starting guards in the league. This rep (and those below) backs up the objectivity of that statement.
Redmond is an aggressive pass blocker. He consistently shoots out his outside arm as a pseudo-buffer to establish control of the set, but there’s not a lot of power behind it and his body lean and inside arm don’t aid him when he needs to reset if that outside punch fails. It happens even on pass sets that aren’t meant to matter for more than two seconds.
I’ve given credit to Redmond for trimming down a noticeable amount over the offseason to help him increase his movement ability, but quick feet don’t do anything if you can’t anchor with them. This time, Redmond tries to hug the rusher and absorb the bull rush, and fails to roll his hips into the block. His back isn’t straight up, but he fails to establish any form of leverage and gets driven back into quarterback Andy Dalton and allows the sack.
Redmond goes back on the attack here with that outside arm-lead jump set. His adversary, Grady Jarrett, expects it the whole way and gives the Bengals a taste of their own medicine. Jarrett stands level with Geno Atkins at 6-1, and is four inches shorter than Redmond. So many times Cincinnati has benefitted off of Atkins’ bull rushes that have been unstoppable because of his lower leg explosion and leverage resulting in his height.
Jarrett charges into Redmond with a purpose. Driving up into Redmond’s frame, he displaces him with his own version of Carl Lawson’s inside arm shot put move. Redmond gets stood straight up and turned around completely, and Jarrett disrupts the integrity of the pocket. Luckily, Dalton is able to make a great escape and throw after Redmond manages to recover in the only way he can.
The discussion of what happens to Redmond and Trey Hopkins when Billy Price comes back is worth having. This play is a good example of why both have a case for staying on the field.
Redmond quickly locks in on the linebacker and climbs to him with efficiency. Hopkins is able to get the reach block off the snap in perfect unison with the rest of the offensive line and get out in front of the shaded nose tackle. His work at center hasn’t been perfect, but for never having played their for an extended period of time, he’s performed admirably. Some of his best work occurred on plays like the one below as well.
I love Montgomery Inn’s ribs, those from Cincinnati know what I’m talking about. Hopkins gets himself a full slab of ribs on this play after Redmond is made a fool of.
All game long Redmond had been baiting his opposition to the inside off his pass sets, on the final drive, he gets caught in the act. The Falcons did a great job of planning for Redmond and his tendencies in pass protection and got the better of him for four quarters.
It’s yet to be known when Price will return to the field, but he will shortly and he will be starting. Odds are he’ll be back at center where he’s been since he got to Cincinnati. That would likely mean Hopkins would return to the bench as the emergency interior backup.
But I don’t think that would yield the best result.
We always talk about wanting to get the best five guys on the field, but that doesn’t work of you’re playing certain lineman out of position. The Bengals can’t move Price out of the center spot if they don’t have someone who can play at his level. They do have that in Hopkins, and he also does certain things better than the rookie.
If you keep Hopkins at center, you can play Price at a position where his tape at Ohio State was at its highest quality. Some had projected Price as a guard because of how he played there earlier in his collegiate career. Most of Price’s issues involve him dealing with the primary action of playing center: snapping the ball. These issues can be corrected over time, but time may not be a luxury the Bengals offense can afford.
This offense is one of the best in the league, but we saw it struggle still because of pass protection issues outside of Clint Boling and Hopkins and the results were almost fatal. If you bring back Price, you’re not making anything better — if you replace Price with a liability while also playing him in a position he’s known to be adequate at, you have something else entirely.
Ultimately, this is all wishful thinking and I don’t expect it to happen. The Bengals seem bullish on Redmond and will likely see how he responds to a rough first quarter of the season. But there’s an enticing opportunity in front of them, and the tape should tell them all they need to know to take advantage of it.