In the Andy Dalton era, the Bengals defense has typically been one of the top units in the league. However, in 2017 with the defense being on the field so much and some struggles at linebacker the unit didn’t play up to its typical standards. With some younger players poised to get more snaps and a couple of key additions in free agency the Bengals are hoping to get up to their typical defensive standards. A big key should also be the change from defensive coordinator Paul Guenther to former Lions coordinator Teryl Austin. With that move, one of the biggest changes we should expect to see on the field is more blitzing as the Bengals had the lowest blitz percentage in the NFL last season.
Here are five plays the Bengals have traditionally liked to use on defense that we can likely expect to see continue with Austin at the helm.
1. Cover 1 man
This first concept we are taking a look at is a pretty basic play where the Bengals try and get pressure with just four. Depending on who is on the field, most of the other players on the defense will man up against the offensive skill position players. Ideally you want to have appropriate matchups for each so there isn’t a linebacker trying to cover a wide receiver one-on-one. Also in this formation, one of the safeties typically drops down to help cover and the other one plays a high safety role to help eliminate big plays. Usually a linebacker also ends up playing an underneath zone to help eliminate easy completions across the middle.
2. Cover 2
Unlike the previous play, cover 2 is typically a zone focused defense that aims to prevent big plays down the field. However, it is a defense that if used too much it can be torn apart by a good offensive scheme. There are several different ways to attack this scheme no matter how good the personnel is. Over the middle, the linebackers have to cover the deep middle and if they drop deep enough it opens up the underneath for the offense to attack. However, if they don’t drop deep enough then the deep middle of the field will be wide open.
3. Cover 3 blitz
I made sure to pick a couple of blitz plays as with the transition from Paul Guenther to Teryl Austin it looks as if the Bengals won’t be near the bottom of the league in blitz percentage. I believe it will be much more common to see Carl Lawson rushing from a linebacker spot this season anytime he isn’t on the defensive line. This play specifically can be weak to deep passes if one of the cornerback’s can’t handle their assignment one on one. Three players are in charge of the deep thirds of the field and that means that they don’t have a lot of help. With six players going after the quarterback, the Bengals have to get pressure quickly as they couldn’t possibly cover the entire field.
4. Man blitz
This play is similar to the last play, however, instead of playing in zones, every defensive player mans up with one of the opponents. This play is very personnel dependent as even one weak link can allow for an easy completion for the quarterback and it is dependent on how quickly the pressure can get to the quarterback. If the pressure can’t get there quickly enough, this play runs the risk of allowing a deep completion as one of the cornerbacks may get beaten deep.
5. Cover 3
I am focusing on Cover 3 with and without the blitz as it is one of the most common types of plays the Bengals run. Cover 3 overall is one of the most common concepts in the NFL as it is one that is extremely versatile and covers the underneath and deep fairly well. With only four players rushing, it allows more players to cover and makes it so that even though the quarterback has more time to throw the lanes and windows are much tighter. The way to attack Cover 3 is to try and overload one side of the field and make the defender choose who to cover. Also, if the corner on the outside is outmatched then the wide receiver may have a one-on-one matchup that favors them down the field. Although, a good single high safety can help cover over-top, which is partially why they are so coveted.