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Film Room: Bengals look to have impressive pass rush in 2019

Both scheme and personnel changes made the Bengals’ pass rush very fun to watch against the Redskins

Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Despite the absence of Geno Atkins and Carl Lawson, the Bengals’ pass rush looked impressive in the team’s second preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

Their pass rush has been bolstered by a pair some newcomers and changes in scheme. If the preseason is any indicator, the Bengals defense will feature more line stunts and linebackers threatening in the A-gaps than it has in the past.

This first clip is an example of a line stunt. The Bengals run what’s called a double Tex stunt, where the tackle (T) and the end (E) on either side cross (X). On the snap, the defensive tackles break for the outside of the offensive tackle. The defensive ends take three hard steps up field, then loop back to the inside. If the offensive guard chases the defensive tackle to the edge, there will be a gap for end to rush through.

The Redskins are running a half man, half zone (or slide) protection. The top of the screen is the zone side. Andrew Billings does an excellent job working to the edge getting into a position to contain the quarterback. This is not that important when Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins is the quarterback, but will be important when the Bengals face the likes of Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield during the season. Carlos Dunlap loops to the inside, but because it is a zone protection and the offensive guard has stayed disciplined, he and the center are there to pick up Dunlap.

The bottom of the screen is the man side, so as Kerry Wynn works towards the edge the guard chases him. Sam Hubbard pushes the tackle with his first three steps, then loops to the inside. The tackle post steps and attempts to block him, but Hubbard has the advantage and comes free for a hit on Keenum. The running back is the only other player in protection, but he is responsible for the linebackers and picks up Nick Vigil blitzing up the middle.

This is a great use of scheme that was successful in pressuring the quarterback.

In the previous clip, it was Wynn who helped open up the pressure for Hubbard. This time it Renell Wren opens up the rush for Wynn. The rookie, Wren was put on the move a lot at Arizona State and has helped the Bengals succeed with his movement in preseason. He draws the blocks of both the guard and the tackle. Wynn bursts by the center for a sack.

In this next clip the Bengals show and send a double A gap blitz with linebackers Malik Jefferson and Hardy Nickerson. This ensures 1-on-1 match ups for all pass rushers; somebody just has to win. Jordan Willis uses a speed rip move at the top of the screen to get around the edge. He bends to the quarterback and hits him, coming over Haskins’ throwing shoulder with his right arm. This causes a fumble and Wynn shows great hustle and awareness to run down field and recover the fumble.

In the previous clip Willis used his speed to rush the edge. In this clip he is once again the end at the top of the screen. He uses speed to threaten the edge before dipping inside of offensive tackle Geron Christian. Wills is on the quarterback fast, forcing him to throw the ball away.

Lined up just inside of him is Andrew Brown. Brown does just the opposite of Willis, he comes hard and fast off the line, and takes a step to the inside to influence offensive guard Wes Martin. He then rips to the outside, clearing the rookie offensive lineman with ease. Unfortunately, this puts both Brown and Willis in the B-gap and Brown’s pass rush is slowed when he runs into Willis’ back.

You want to see a pocket collapse?

Willis is again rushing with speed from the top of the screen here, while Brown is the edge rusher on the bottom. It is Willis who is able to come free, but Brown is pressuring the edge before spinning to the inside to pursue the quarterback.

Wren is the defensive tackle on the bottom of the screen. He gets some serious push and is seven yards deep in the backfield when Haskins begins to scramble. Defensive linemen need to have a clock in their head that tells them when they have rushed for long enough and should get their hand up to deflect the pass. Wren understands this and puts his left hand in the air. When Haskins runs instead, Wren disengages from the blocker and makes chase. If he would have done this a second earlier, he would have had a sack, but instead linebacker Jordan Evans makes the tackle for a gain of 6 yards.

The Bengals brought a four-man rush on this play and got excellent pressure from three of four defenders.

In this next clip the Bengals are once again influencing the protection by showing blitz with Evans lined up in the B gap. Because this is a five-man pass protection scheme, with the running back free releasing (releasing into his route without first checking for a blitz) this creates a situation where every defensive linemen will have a one-on-one matchup.

Evans is actually not blitzing. He is in man coverage, and on the snap he breaks to his left to cover the running back. This influences the left guard to set towards the outside, thinking Evans is looping to the edge on a blitz.

Wren is lined up just inside of Evans. On the snap he bulls into the center, pushing him into the right guard. This creates a pick for Brown who after his initial rush up field, loops around the mess that Wren has made and is free to the quarterback. Unfortunately, Haskins is able to escape and get the ball off. This is a great use of scheme by the Bengals defense, creating a situation to get a pass rusher free to the quarterback. Now they just need to finish.

The Bengals pass rush looked impressive in preseason game No. 2. In the season they can depend on having one of the league’s best interior rushers in Atkins and the talented Dunlap rushing the edge. He will be joined outside by Lawson, who has potential to be an elite pass rusher and Hubbard who has shown some impressive traits so far in his young career.

Willis, Wynn, and Brown have demonstrated this preseason that they can contribute as well. Wynn and Brown can contribute as both inside and outside rushers. Rookie Wren has also shown a lot of promise on the interior.

It will be exciting to see that this unit can do when it counts.