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Bengals film review: Edge pass rush impresses vs. Bears, but interior needs improvement

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Dunlap, Lawson, Johnson, and Willis shine on the edge, but Atkins is still the only one getting any pressure on the inside

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have been blessed over the last few years with a couple of the best pass rushers in the game in Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins.

Last year, the addition of Carl Lawson gave Dunlap a worthy counterpart on the opposite edge, but the team still needs another interior rusher who can prevent teams from constantly sliding the protection to Atkins. The team is using some of their young talented edge players on this inside, but so far they are not seeing much success.

The Bengals get a very good pass rush on this play which results in a roughing the passer call for Dunlap coming off the left edge. Dunlap uses an incredible spin move that demonstrates why his skill-set is worth every penny that he is asking for in his new contract. He jab steps to the inside, getting Bears right tackle Bobby Massie to stop his kickstep. Dunlap then spins to the outside, whipping Massie’s hip on his way by and is a step short of getting to Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Sophomore phenom Carl Lawson is working the pass rush from the opposite edge of Dunlap. He pressures Bears left tackle Charles Leno Jr. with his speed and when he realizes he can’t get the edge he attempts a spin move to the inside.

Leno picks him up on this move. It may be okay to do this against Trubisky, but making an inside move as an edge rusher could be dangerous in the regular season when the Bengals play quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Patrick Mahomes, and possibly Baker Mayfield, all of whom are known for their ability to scramble to the outside and make plays in the pass game from outside the pocket.

Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins gets an excellent bull rush on left guard Eric Kush. Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson is also playing on the inside on this play, but his attempt of a bull rush is neutralized by the Bears zone pass protection. He needs to figure out away to use his speed as an inside pass rusher.

On the next play, Dunlap is getting an excellent rush on the edge; using his hands effectively to keep Massie’s hands off of him.

On the other side of the formation, Johnson is also using his speed around the edge, but Leno Jr. is able to push him past the play. Bengals defensive tackle Andrew Billings isn’t getting any push on Bears right guard Kyle Long and has no real impact on the play, while Atkins is rushing inside on the zone side of the protection.

After an excellent initial get off and push, he gets a little help as Bears center Cody Whitehair seems to trip Kush at the left guard allowing Atkins to get the sack.

Later on the same drive, while both Dunlap and Lawson are doing an excellent job of bringing pressure off the edge both interior pass rushers end up double teamed and are not able to impact the play.

Johnson uses his length and gets a good initial strike on right guard Earl Watford, but his push/pull get off move takes him right into fullback Michael Burton. Jordan Willis, another of the Bengals defensive ends, is also rushing from the inside on this play. He is on the zone side of the protection and initially engages with the center. He gets some push, but does not seem to have a pass rush plan for disengaging from the block and getting to Trubisky.

Further into the game, both Willis and Lawson get excellent pass rushes against the Bears second unit. Willis gets by using a push/pull move, and Lawson is able to strike on the tackle’s inside shoulder an push him by.

On the inside, defensive tackle Chris Baker and defensive end Sam Hubbard are both stunting into different gaps. Baker isn’t able to get far, and when he turns to alter his course, he ends up double teamed. Hubbard is able to get some penetration, but the guard gets on his hip and washes him out, away from the quarterback.

If Hubbard could gather himself and throw a rip move with his right arm, he may be able to get to the quarterback. This stunt inside is designed to benefit defensive ends playing interior technique alignments as it allows them to use their strength and convert speed to power. Hubbard just needs to take the next step and finish the stunt.

With another year under his belt, Lawson should provide an excellent edge pass rush opposite Dunlap and the team has a variety of other players who can also contribute on the edge. It is encouraging to see them use Johnson, Willis, and Hubbard on the inside, but the trio will need to learn how to utilize their strengths to become the skilled inside pass rushers the Bengals need to have beside Atkins.