There is no way around the fact that the Bengals were not a great team at running the football.
They finished with the second-fewest rushing yards of any team last season. They also only had the 29th-ranked yards-per-carry average, so it wasn’t a matter of not running it enough. There was one concept that seemed to pay dividends for them though.
The Bengals were one of the best teams at counter runs, according to Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus. The Bengals averaged 5,9 yards per carry and the running backs didn’t reach first contact until after they had already gained an average of 1.6 yards. Of course, this was used sparingly, and Cincinnati only ran 28 counters last season.
It is still interesting that they produced so well in this concept. It may have been that the offense Ken Zampese had in place was so predictable that doing anything off of it would create a big play.
Only half joking about that.
It is a great way to get the advantage to the offensive line, though. They basically just have to set up a run going another way, so it doesn’t matter if they get beat initially, and considering just how bad the offensive line was last season, they needed all of the advantage that they could get.
It was also a great way to allow Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard to use their quickness to start one way and go the other. Both of them are very good at stopping and going, and allowing them to use that ability to get linebackers out of position would no doubt yield great results.
Luckily, the Bengals shouldn’t have to worry about their offensive line being that bad again this season with the additions of Cordy Glenn at left tackle and Billy Price in the middle. Frank Pollack has also taken over the offensive line, and we have only heard great things about his approach so far.
However, it seems like it would still be a good idea to sprinkle a few more of these plays in considering how well they do. With Bill Lazor implementing a new offense, he may want to consider even expanding the selections of these plays.
Much like how offenses have pass plays where they will alter a couple routes if they feel defenses are cheating towards it, there isn’t too much of a reason to not have more counters off successful run plays.
Some may say the more you run counters, the more other teams will expect them, and to that I say yes. That is the point. The more a team has to worry about you countering off your core runs, the less aggressive you can be with them.
Sure, if you do it more often you’ll have a few more counters that aren’t as successful, but you can say the same about any running play either. I’m not saying the Bengals should run 100 counters next season.
Cincinnati ran the ball 377 times, and only 28 of those were counters. That seems way too low considering how successful the team was with it.
After all, they were the second-worst rushing team in the league last season, so what do they really have to lose?