Bengals defensive lineman Andrew Billings has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the summer.
Billings was a fourth round pick of the Bengals in 2016, but missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury and did not look like he was fully recovered in year two.
The Bengals have had nothing but uncertainty at the nose tackle position ever since Domata Peko left in free agency in 2017. Billings impressed throughout camp and showed against the Buffalo Bills that he can be a real force at the nose tackle position.
Even though the Bengals generally substitute a defensive end for him on passing downs, Billings has shown some pass-rush ability. In the first clip below, he shows great quickness crossing the center’s face. He uses a club/punch move, which has a lot of power and throws the center off balance. His punch allows him to get past the blocker and get the sack on quarterback Josh Allen.
Club punch, cross face and finish on the QB pic.twitter.com/CL4Hnj7Xet— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 27, 2018
Billings is generally going win more with power than speed and quickness. Here he plays with great leverage and pushes the right guard back on the bull rush. He keeps his feet moving and nearly pushes the blocker into the quarterback. He needs to use a get off move and finish on the quarterback.
Billings dominates on this bull rush pic.twitter.com/PFxxp1BjuD— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 27, 2018
Once again, Billings dominates the right guard with his strength. Billings stays low and keeps his feet moving as he pushes the blocker deep into the backfield. He finishes with a club/swim trying to disengage. Although the guard holds on, Billings gets a hand on the quarterback and Jordan Willis finishes him off.
Another bull rush, Billings gets home on this one with a little help pic.twitter.com/7jji8WAuv5— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 27, 2018
As a nose tackle, Billings will be used primarily to stop the run. Here he shows the same strength he showed in the passing game, once again pushing the right guard into the backfield.
Look at Billings stand up the right guard pic.twitter.com/sFmfMn2EGI— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 27, 2018
Getting this kind of penetration screws up the play for the offense. The pull by the center is too quick to be effective, but Billings pushes the guard back so far that fullback Patrick DiMarco nearly runs into him. Billings’ presence in the backfield alters the path of the running back, forcing him to cut back into a sea of Bengals defenders.
Billings pushes the left guard two yards into the backfield here. Once he realizes that the play is a jet sweep to the right side, he disengages and chases the play. This is a great hustle play by Billings to pursue an outside run that is unlikely to cut back to him.
Billings puts that center on skates pic.twitter.com/p2NQgBk9r4— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 27, 2018
The center is trying to block back on Billings on this power play, but Billings is having none of it. He stays low, with his hands tight on the center’s chest, and drives him back to the play side. The running back cuts back into fellow Bengals defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, who takes him down as Billings disengages and cleans up.
Fighting on the backside pic.twitter.com/LtZjK8YIyM— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 27, 2018
In his third NFL season, Billings looks poised for a breakout year at the nose tackle position, and he should have plentiful opportunities to make plays as blocking schemes will be more focused on Geno Atkins inside. If he can continue his dominance into the regular season, the Bengals will have another weapon in an already talented group of defensive linemen that can elevate defense’s success in 2018.