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Bengals Weekly Lineman: The curious absence of Geno Atkins

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Cincinnati did everything in their power to stop Lamar Jackson and it still wasn’t enough. Not even Atkins could do anything to prevent the inevitable.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times: The NFL is a reactionary league. And few things spur action better than allowing over 250 yards rushing for the second time in four weeks.

The Bengals’ defense is a known mess, and the solutions needed to fixing it far outweigh the options the team currently has. Last week, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray lead the way for his team to run for 266 rushing yards in Paul Brown Stadium, and most of those yards came from the Bengals’ defense failing to contain the athletic rookie passer on both read options runs and scrambles.

Not only were the Bengals not talented enough to even hope to stop Murray, there where times when the defense failed to put themselves in position to even stand a chance. It was a perfect storm for disaster.

With that film presumably fresh in their minds, it was actually a blessing for them to play Lamar Jackson’s Ravens just one week later. Though Baltimore doesn’t run the same offense as Arizona does, their quarterbacks can do equal damage with their legs. But with Jackson, he may be the most electrifying open-field runner in the game.

I obviously have no ears in the meeting rooms in Cincinnati, but I can still say with confidence that limiting Jackson, the runner, was priority No. 1 for the defense. After just being thrashed by Murray, preventing Jackson from doing the same at that magnitude had to be crucial in their game-planning.

And when looking at the film, this seemed to be the case. But did it work? Not really!

Jackson went on to rack up 152 yards on the ground, which was about 20 yards shy of the NFL record for a quarterback. An additional 117 rushing yards were provided by Baltimore’s triad running backs and for the third time this season, the Bengals allowed a team to cross the 250-yard mark. The run was, how you say, established.

Anyways, it was evident that the Bengals’ defensive line was more intent on keeping Jackson in the pocket than they were pressuring him to get the ball out quickly. In the instances where Jackson had to win with his arm, he had his hits and misses. But with facing the option running game and the “contain-at-all-costs” plan combining with one another, it lead to a mystery spawning after the final whistle.

Where in the world was Geno Atkins?

If you’ve been following along, the answer to his “disappearance” should be obvious by now. But let’s look at the film anyways:

Some would tell you that scheme not only trumps talent, but dictates talent as well and not the other way around. Those people are what we call dirty dirty liars.

The scheme to defend Jackson and the Ravens wasn’t an issue. They didn’t have the talent to execute it properly. Why do you think the Raven’ offense is operated the way that it is? The talent dictates it, and with the talent level being so high, it works.

To start the season, the Bengals trotted out five defensive lineman as their base package in order to minimize how much their linebackers could hurt them. Once they started playing teams who utilize spread formations, they opted to play with three safeties instead of two linebackers in their nickel personnel grouping. Talent dictates scheme, and a lack of talent hinders how successful that scheme will be.

The Bengals can deploy whatever scheme they want, but they’ll have a hard time beating anyone if their talent level doesn’t match the opposition. That goes for both sides of the ball.

Unfortunately for Atkins, he represents a giant chunk of the talent they do possess. And when they have to get creative schematically just to have a chance at limiting the other team, even he is liable to suffer the consequences.