Weeks ago in the grueling August sun, the battles in Bengals training camp between left tackle Cordy Glenn and defensive end Carl Lawson were one of the main attractions. Each player traded many blows facing off against each other, and after nearly every practice some wondered if Glenn or Lawson had lost a step depending on who won the day.
Not long after camp began, Glenn had already seen enough from the second-year pass rusher first-hand to give him the praise he deserves.
“He’s a freak of nature. He’s fast, but then he’s got power, and at the end of the day he’s determined to get a sack every play,” Glenn told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “For most guys in the league to be good you have to have two dominant traits. He’s got three. He’s strong, fast and his motor is, ‘I have to get a sack.’ Great motor.”
Three weeks into the regular season, Glenn has yet to allow a sack on his quarterback Andy Dalton, and Lawson has yet to record a sack on the three quarterbacks he’s faced. That isn’t to say that Glenn has done his job beautifully and Lawson has been a slacker, because the opposite has largely been true especially last Sunday against the Panthers.
We’ll start by examining just a few of the pressures Glenn allowed.
This really began the theme regarding Glenn from this game. It’s not that he looked sluggish entering his sets, he just looked off—timing and everything. He was beat off the snap numerous times and this really started everything.
Based off the outside alignment of defensive end Mario Addison, and assuming Glenn knows he won’t get help from tight end Tyler Eifert, he has to protect the edge at all costs. And for whatever reason, his footwork just lacked throughout the set and it results in a pressure and QB hit allowed.
A couple of knowns trait Glenn has are the size and grip of his hands in pass protection. Those qualities are only useful if he puts himself in the proper position though. His kickslide is perfect up until he meets Addison, where he softens the edge just enough as if he was preparing to face an inside counter upon squaring his hips to Addison.
As a result, Addison takes advantage of a now bent over Glenn, swipes away his hands and flattens around the edge to meet Dalton mid-release. The Bengals were lucky Dalton got the ball out when he did, because this drive eventually ended in a touchdown. A turnover instead would’ve made the game a lot worse for them.
This play ended in a much better result, but the process from Glenn still spawns questions. The Panthers show blitz off the edge and the Bengals offensive line recognizes and handles it perfectly. This time, Glenn doesn’t prepare for the inside counter and fails to lock up linebacker David Mayo, who doesn’t rush the passer that often.
There were plenty of minor mistakes Glenn made this game that resulted in one of his roughest outings in his career. He’s had some rare hiccups in the previous two games, but looked far more consistent than this. I don’t think it’s a sign of things to come because these mistakes are extremely correctable for an esteemed veteran like Glenn, but if they aren’t, then we need to be on alert.
Moving onto Lawson, there’s a growing sense that he’s been slacking as a pass rusher or simply not getting it done. I’m here to tell you that sacks are cool, but pressures are more indicative. Lawson had a quality day even though he couldn’t get to quarterback Cam Newton before he got rid of the ball, and coverage down the field had a part in that.
Early in the game, Lawson got the better of left tackle Chris Clark, and showed why the matchup between the two was pretty lopsided. Fortunately for Clark, Newton got the ball out pretty quickly because of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick appears to be playing zone in off coverage as the Panthers have three receiver in the bunch formation at the top. Kirkpatrick just fails to pick up the outside receiver running the quick out in time and Newton has a quick option to throw to, negating Lawson’s rush.
On the very next play, Lawson gets even closer.
Similar results here, but this time Lawson gets there even quicker and forces an incompletion. You can see Clark try and gets the initial punch, but Lawson’s timing is too good with that inside arm. The longer-developing route combinations down the field force Newton to hold onto the ball a little longer, and Lawson gets the job done, even if it’s “just a pressure”.
Sometimes great players are gonna be great players. Lawson, once again, uproots Clark from the ground and pressures Newton. The Bengals defense is spread out due to the Panthers being in an empty set and it’s up to the Bengals defensive line to contain the quarterback. Lawson barely can’t finish due to being dragged down by Clark as a last ditch effort. Newton evades through the gapping hole created by Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap, and it’s a first down for Newton.
The good pass rushers accumulate sacks, great pass rushers force constant pressure. Why? because pressures eventually lead to sacks. Just because Lawson has no sacks through three games does not mean he’s regressed, or is even playing at a lesser level than last year. I’d argue he’s playing even better than last year, and is still the clear third-best rusher on the Bengals defensive line.
So be patient, because the sacks will come—as will Lawson, every snap he takes.