The Bengals have been awful against the run all season, so it was certainly disheartening to watch their next opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, run for 210 yards against an historically great New England Patriots defense this past Sunday.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had a good night, but only accounted for 61 of those yards. Running back Mark Ingram ran for nearly that on one carry alone and led the team with 115 yards rushing.
The first time the Bengals and Ravens met this season, it was the other way around. Jackson accounted for 152 of the team’s 269 rushing yards while Ingram accounted for 52 of them.
Let’s take a look at how the Ravens offense ran all over New England last week and see what the Bengals are up against.
In the clip above, Jackson is reading Kyle Van Noy, who is the end man on the line of scrimmage. Van Noy’s hips are not square, which could open up the door for Jackson to keep the ball and run outside of him, but because Van Noy doesn’t immediately bend down to tackle the dive, Jackson hands it off.
This is dangerous for the Patriots. Van Noy is the quarterback player and if Jackson kept the ball, they could have been in trouble.
Some of you are probably saying. “He made the tackle! How can he be wrong?”
The answer is in the next clip.
On fourth-and-goal, the Patriots made the same mistake, and paid dearly.
Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. is the quarterback player, and he has to be because there are no other Patriots outside of him. He plays the run action as most defenders would play a 4th and goal run from under center, aggressively pinching to the inside, but you can’t do that against this offense. an
Jackson sees Collins screaming inside and knows he has easy score on the QB keeper.
When defending any type of option, players must do their job and not try to make someone else’s play. On this play, Collins chased the ball rather than focusing on his responsibility.
The motion has an interesting impact on this play pic.twitter.com/u8dm8c97qA— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 6, 2019
It is interesting how the threat of the jet sweep can impact plays by keeping the defense wide.
This zone read is a zone read, just like the previous plays, but the jet motion to the play-side influences the end man on the line of scrimmage to stay wide and ensures the give.
This play is a little different in that it is out of the shotgun than rather the pistol and it is a power play rather than a zone play, but the quarterback is once again reading the end man on the line of scrimmage.
Patriots defensive end John Simon takes a step down, but unlike Van Noy in the first clip, he stays square.
Technically, Jackson should give this ball. When talking about these types of plays Chip Kelly says that he doesn’t call it a “read” for the quarterback, he calls it an “unless.” He wants his quarterback to give the ball unless the player he’s reading is going to make the tackle on the running back.
Of course, Chip Kelly never coached Lamar Jackson.
Whether he should or not, Jackson keeps the ball. Because his hips are square, Simon is able to contain the run, but just barely. Jackson’s athletic ability and this one-on-one matchup in space could definitely spell trouble for the Patriots, but Jackson runs out of room and Simon forces him out of bounds for a gain of six.
Even if a defense does what it should, Jackson can make them pay. Ideally, you’d want to have a secondary player also responsible for Jackson, but when you also have to account for every gap and the potential of play action pass, it can be very difficult.
Young QBs, this what you should do when you make the wrong read pic.twitter.com/iafbTeGZvz— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 6, 2019
Speaking of bad reads, on this play, Simon is once again holding the edge, and the ball should be handed off to running back Justice Hill. Jackson keeps the ball, but when he realizes that he is running right at Simon, he turns and follows the running back up the hole for a nine-yard gain.
This is the smart thing to do if you make a bad read as a quarterback. Could this be a quarterback iso play built off of a zone read action?
Yes, but I don’t think it is because Jackson’s cut looks spontaneous.
The clip above may look like a zone read at first glance, but it is actually a midline.
Midline is a triple option play where the running back runs straight downhill and the 3-technique lined up outside of the offensive guard is left unblocked. If the 3-technique runs up field, the quarterback gives to the dive. If the 3-technique bends to tackle the dive, the quarterback pulls the ball and follows a lead blocker up the hole that the 3-technique has vacated.
In this case it is actually the 5-technique, Lawrence Guy, who is lined up outside shade of the right tackle.
While the center and right guard double team the nose tackle up to the backside linebacker, the right tackle releases outside to block Van Noy.
With the guard and tackle working in opposite directions, there are two players left unblocked inside, but Guy and linebacker Elandon Roberts both play the dive.
Jackson pulls the ball and follows his lead-blocker Nick Boyle up the hole for a gain of 18 yards.
If Guy is going to play the dive, the linebacker must cover the B-gap for the quarterback run. If Guy is going to stay in his gap and not bend, Roberts can fill tight for the dive.
They can’t both be doing the same job.
This is a speed option. Jackson runs to his right reading the end man on the line of scrimmage, Van Noy. If Van Noy steps towards Jackson, he will pitch the ball to the running back, Ingram.
Van Noy is responsible for Jackson, while deep safety Devin McCourty is responsible for the pitch.
Initially Van Noy gets wide, likely thinking it is some other type of outside run that he will have to contain. When he approaches Jackson, the ball is pitched out to Ingram.
It is tough for a deep middle safety to get to this play. McCourty is coming from a distance, and his angle of pursuit makes it difficult to avoid blocks. He is not able to make the play because Patrick Ricard washes him out.
Fellow safety Patrick Chung brings Ingram down, but only after he has picked up 13 yards.
Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup pic.twitter.com/QYwTB3DOyM— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) November 6, 2019
The Bengals defense has been particularly bad against misdirection, so the play above could be a real problem.
In the clip above Jackson and Ingram run a speed option look to the right, but Marquise Brown has come in motion and gets the ball on the jet sweep going back the other direction. He picks up 26 yards on the play.
The Patriots sell merchandise that says “Do your job” but struggled at that against the Ravens’ option attack.
The Bengals defense has had a lot of breakdowns this season which could be a huge problem against this style of offense and a weapon like Lamar Jackson. They will have their work cut out for them this weekend.
If they are to have any chance of success, they must have a sound game plan with clear cut option responsibilities. Players must be disciplined; doing their job and trusting that their teammates will do the same.