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The Debrief: Bengals status reports, the elusive interception, and big plays

In our second-ever edition of The Debrief, we review the team’s status report heading into Carolina, Dre Kirkpatrick’s elusive interception, and the big plays allowed by the defense.

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

Unless you’re obsessing over fantasy lineups or Las Vegas odds, NFL injury reports tend to be useless. Simplifying the complicated anatomy of a human being into “did not practice”, “limited” or “full” doesn’t project much predictive reliability; unless a player hasn’t practiced all week, then the safe bet is that they’re out. On Friday (for Sunday games), injury reports are translated into a status reports, designating players as probable (75% chance of playing), questionable (50/50), doubtful (25% chance of winning), and out. Let’s simplify further: If anyone is out or doubtful, they’re probably out. Probable is probably playing. And questionable is truly questionable. It only makes sense. At least stop with the weather metaphors.

1) An injury report we expected. Running back Joe Mixon (knee) and center Billy Price (foot) are out for Sunday’s game against Carolina — this will probably be their narrative heading into October. Defensive end Michael Johnson (knee) and linebacker Preston Brown (ankle) are questionable; both were limited participants this week. ESPN beat reporter Katherine Terrell speculates that Johnson will sit Sunday against Carolina.

Brown, who was questionable last week, suffered his ankle injury against the Colts while Mixon, Price, and Johnson were victims from Thursday Night’s win over the Ravens.

Impressive Mixon rehabilitation continues: Mixon spent Friday’s walkthrough running ropes under the watchful eye of Director of Rehabilitation Nick Cosgrey. Mixon, who is recovering from a “slight meniscus tear”, stimulated running on a “zero-gravity treadmill” Thursday and said he felt great.

A zero-gravity treadmill? See how one works.

2) Inability to comprehend a tie. ESPN’s David Newton reviews the 2014 tie between the Bengals and Panthers, and examines how that team (with Newton) compares to this year’s team (with Newton). also reviewed the 2014 tie and a Charlotte Observer post mentions it in their introduction.

It makes you wonder if those associated with the Panthers are still processing that Carolina actually tied a football game four years ago. Those of us associated with the Bengals just roll with it.

Since 2008, eight NFL games have ended in a tie. Cincinnati, Minnesota, and Green Bay are the only teams with multiple ties during that span. While the Bengals lead the NFL with three, the Vikings and Packers each have two... and both were against each other (Nov. 24, 2013 and Sept. 16, 2018).

3) Dre Kirkpatrick’s elusive interception. How many passes has cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has dropped so far? Two? Three? According to reports, Kirkpatrick remained after practice this week to work on catching passes while walking around with a football clutched in his hand. “I just had to go back to the old roots,” the 28-year old corner said via the Enquirer.

That’s not to say Kirkpatrick is having a bad season; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. When he’s not dancing with 95-year old ladies, Kirkpatrick leads the team with four passes defensed and holding opposing receivers to a completion rate of 42.1%. His Pro Football Focus coverage score (if you buy into that) ranks third on the team — behind Clayton Fejedelem and William Jackson.

4) Who is the backup center to the backup center? No one is saying, notes the Enquirer. Trey Hopkins said “probably Clint”, while starting left guard Clint Boling was more evasive. “We’ve worked a lot of different people there,” he said.

To have with your chamomile tea (for your reading pleasure).

In Closing.

If you were writing an essay exploring Cincinnati’s Biggest Weaknesses, where would your focus be? Pass protection from the right tackle spot? Randy Bullock’s accurate leg?

Bleacher Report ran a feature exploring each team’s Biggest Weakness and believes Cincinnati has an issue allowing big plays.

However, the unit has allowed two 20-plus yard passing scores. Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron logged a 26-yard touchdown in Week 1, and Flacco threaded the needle to wideout John Brown for a 21-yard score last week.

The article didn’t delve into much detail... but we’re Bengals fans. If we’re not irrationally and anxiously expecting something to collapse into a Pittsburgh-sized black hole, then we’re not doing something right.

Cincinnati has allowed a handful of big plays — the Ebron touchdown reception, the John Brown score (more of a great play by Brown than a bad play by Dre Kirkpatrick). However, they haven’t allowed an exorbitant amount of big plays compared to the league.

Through two games this season, the Bengals have allowed six 20-yard passing plays. Fifteen teams have allowed more (we didn’t include TNF’s game between the Browns and Jets), including the Chiefs (14) and Saints (12), who double Cincinnati’s allowance. Additionally, the Bengals have only allowed one 40-yard pass play, matching most of the NFL. Seven teams have allowed more and nine allowed less.

Interestingly, Nick Vigil and Hardy Nickerson have combined for 278 of the team’s 695 passing yards allowed (NOTE: the 695 yards excludes the 31 yards loss by opposing offenses due to Bengals sacks). That’s 40%. William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Darqueze Dennard also account for a combined 278 yards allowed... which is eery.

Obviously the weakness isn’t so much the “big plays” — rather it’s the intermediary passes 5-10 yards off the line of scrimmage where quarterbacks are taking chunks of field position, one pass at a time.

Who knows what the solution is, or if one even exists. Maybe Cincinnati is just holding on until Vontaze Burfict, one of their top instinctive players, returns. Either way, these pass-and-catch plays opposing quarterbacks have been chipping away at Cincinnati’s defense is infuriating. Probably more so than the “big play.”

One Final Thought.

It’s not easy staying informed, especially those of us that work long hours. So I’m trying something new called The Debrief. The idea is to recap the day, from all resources, like CJ, the Cincinnati paper, mothership, DDN, the Athletic, etc... Our target audience is busy folks with minutes to catch up on the Bengals at the end of the day. It won’t be a nightly posting, but will run several times a week. If you read and have ideas on how they best serve you, contact me via email or twitteryou can find both here.

Thanks for reading!