clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Behind Enemy Lines: Bengals vs. Washington Football Team

We caught up with Andrew York of Hog Haven to get his thoughts on this week’s matchup.

Washington Football Team v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Bengals are getting set to head to Washington to take on the Football Team this week. It has been quite awhile since these teams met in the regular season. The last time these teams faced off was in London in 2016 when these teams finished with a tie.

Considering how different these teams are from their 2016 renditions, we thought it’d be a good idea to get Andrew York of Hogs Haven’s thoughts on the Football team coming into this matchup.

Patrick Judis: We have to start off about the feel good story that is Alex Smith. Can you summarize the fall and rise of his story in Washington. Also how confident are you in him as the starter?

Andrew York: When Kirk Cousins left in free agency after the 2017 season, we traded with the Chiefs to get Alex Smith as his replacement. The move was a bit divisive with the fanbase at the time, but I saw it as replacing one Pro Bowl QB with another. Alex Smith brought an ugly brand of offensive play that turned a lot of fans off due to the focus on short passing and being hyper-conservative with the ball. However, Smith’s brand of play was effective at giving us high time-of-possession and giving the defense long fields to defend by avoiding turnovers. In effect, it resulted in an anemic passing offense, but helped the special teams and defense and allowed us to win games. We were 6-3 and winning the division when he went down with his injury.

People can watch the excellent ESPN documentary about the injury for more details, but the short version is that he got a spiral compound fracture of his tibia and fibula (shin bones) and this was complicated by the wound getting infected with flesh-eating bacteria. Not only were his leg bones broken in multiple places, all of the muscle on the front of his lower right leg had to be removed (opposite his calf muscle). No sports medicine personnel had a precedent for how to help a player rehab through such an injury, so they had to consult with military doctors that had experience treating bomb blast wounds. I think literally every fan assumed he would never be able to play again, but after almost two years of grueling rehab, he was finally cleared to play Aug. 16 of this year. Although initially the third string QB, he was promoted to second string when Dwayne Haskins was benched and starter when Kyle Allen was injured.

Alex played half of a game Week 5 against the Rams and looked terrible, but that was also in a rainstorm, against a good defense, and with little experience practicing with the first-string offense. He looked much better playing Week 9 against the Giants after Kyle Allen suffered a season-ending injury, but didn’t take shots downfield and made some critical turnovers that played a big part in losing the game. Alex looked even better again Week 10 against the Lions, taking some shots downfield and looking much more comfortable in the offense.

In terms of how confident I am in him... he’s definitely the best healthy QB currently on the roster. He actually looks like a better fit in (current OC) Scott Turner’s offense than he did in Jay Gruden’s offense in 2018. He mostly reads the field well and is decisive in identifying weaknesses and attacking them. However, he has lost a lot of mobility due to having dropfoot in his right leg and needing to wear a special brace to lift his foot. He can no longer run away from defensive ends like he used to and needs to get a bit better at throwing the ball away when the pocket collapses. I think he’s also been a bit less accurate with his passes and I wouldn’t be surprised if his throwing mechanics have had to change due to his back foot no longer functioning the same way. He is effectively re-learning the position of QB in a lot of ways. I think he’s played reasonably well in the last two games, but I’m going to need to see continued improvement like we saw between those two games (as well as a few wins) to say I feel confident in him.

PJ: Believe it or not, there was a huge push among Bengals fans to draft Chase Young instead of Joe Burrow. Can you fill us in on how Young has been so far this season?

AY: Fans are a bit divided because we’ve still been losing games and he hasn’t had a big statistical season, but I think Chase Young has been every bit as good as I was hoping. The main reason I say this is that teams have been double teaming him quite a bit, which has given other players on the defensive line more opportunities. The respect that teams have been showing him on a loaded defensive line indicates what they think about his talent. In addition, he’s been winning a lot of those double teams, particularly when it comes to tackles for loss (of which he’s had five in eight games played). He’s also shown tremendous work ethic, a team-first mindset, and a lot of maturity. Fans are a bit angry because he had a penalty at the end of the last game that effectively sealed the game for Detroit, but Young responded well to the adversity by reportedly owning up to his mistake, immediately telling his teammates how bad he felt for letting them down, and even requesting to be one of the players interviewed by media after the game so he could apologize to fans for letting them down. I think that shows a lot of maturity and a professional mindset.

PJ: Washington statistically has one of the toughest pass defenses in the league, but the Lions beat them deep a few times last week. How confident are you that they can put the clamps down on Cincinnati’s offense?

AY: I think the stats are a bit misleading when it comes to our defense. I think our passing defense is overrated and our run defense a bit underrated (though still bad) because of gameflow and the situations we often find ourselves in. In essence, because our offense has been so terrible for most of the season and we have been behind on points early in most games, most teams get conservative against us and run the ball in the second half. This has given us tons of rushing yards allowed, but not many passing yards allowed. Also, we have had some terrible QBs on our schedule so far. But the eye test doesn’t indicate we’ve been particularly good at stopping the pass, and our QB rating allowed has matched up with the season average of most of the QBs we’ve faced. I think this is really an average pass defense and a below average run defense right now. I don’t have any confidence they will put the clamps on Cincinnati’s offense.

PJ: Who is a Washington player you don’t think gets enough national attention that you think Bengals fans should know about for Sunday.

AY: Wide receiver Terry McLaurin gets a fair amount of national attention, so instead I’ll talk about Montez Sweat, the defensive end who plays opposite Chase Young. He was a first round pick in last year’s draft and has had a breakout season so far, with five sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and six tackles for a loss in nine games played. Part of his breakout has been due to the attention Young demands, but Sweat has also been consistently beating his one-on-one matchups and playing with intensity until the final whistle is blown. His technique also improved a lot between last year and this one, so I think he’s going to be a great player for years to come.

Any Washington fan will also want to answer this question with our punter Tress Way. Way has been one of the NFL’s best punters for a few years now, and he gets plenty of practice due to our offense. He’s got a tremendous leg, but unfortunately our punt coverage unit hasn’t done a great job of limiting returns in many games.

PJ: What is your prediction for the game?

AY: After our last two games against the Giants and Lions, I am done predicting Washington to win any remaining games this year (except maybe against the Cowboys). Not unless we show a lot of improvement. The formula for those games has been for the defense to not show up in the first half at all, for the offense to make long, dink-and-dunk offensive drives that get killed by stupid turnovers, penalties, or other mistakes. Then in the second half we suddenly sober up and remember how to play football (often against the soft zone coverage of teams trying to defend a lead), come back on points and look like we might have a game, then blow it with some sort of last-minute mistake. I’d expect more of that, with a final score of maybe 27 - 24 in favor of the Bengals.

Thanks again to Andrew York for taking his time out to answer our questions. If you’d like to see more of his work or Washington coverage, head over to Hogs Haven.