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Film Room: How the Bengals can be more explosive in their passing game

The tape is out there to create big plays against the Eagles’ defense.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Despite the Bengals’ 0-2 start to the 2020 season, Joe Burrow has shown why he was worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. He has looked excellent in no huddle situations and has demonstrated the offensive mastery to effectively check the play at the line of scrimmage. However, there is one thing that is concerning.

Burrow’s 23-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah on Thursday night was not only his longest completion of the season, it was his only completion over 20 yards to date. Burrow was excellent on deep passes at LSU, but has only completed one of 12 attempts over 20 yards with the Bengals.

Given this fact it is not surprising that the Bengals have struggled when they get in plus-yardage situations. If they give up a sack or commit a penalty that leaves them with more than 10 yards to go for a first down, they are basically cooked.

The Bengals need to be able to push the ball vertically down the field to build an effective offense. Not only to create big plays, but to dig them out of the hole when they make mistakes.

So how do they do it?

Part of the solution is building a rapport between Burrow and his receivers. He has had attempts, notably to A.J. Green and Tee Higgins, where it seemed like the receiver wasn’t expecting the ball where Burrow put it.

While the Bengals should be working on this issue, they can’t rely on it happening overnight. They need to do more.

Here are some ideas of how to attack the Eagles defense deep, based on what their defense has shown in the first two weeks of the season.

This play is just another way of running four verticals and although it’s a little under 20 yards, it is a good example of a concept that would fit with what the Bengals do.

The Washington Football Team is in a shotgun formation with one receiver split out wide to the left and three receivers bunched to the right.

The outside receivers on either side run fades toward the end zone. The middle player in the bunch bends his vertical route across the formation, which is standard when running four verticals out of 3x1 formations. The inner-most receiver in the bunch runs a seam straight up the field.

A defender drops over the top of the seam, so quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. puts it behind the receiver and away from the defender. This is a route that both Burrow and Higgins proved adept at completing in college.

The Bengals have taken a lot of deep shots on outside vertical routes this season. Targeting inside vertical routes like these would make a lot of sense.

I’ve been quite vociferous over the years about how the Bengals could be getting more out of Joe Mixon in the pass game.

This would be a great way to do it and is actually very similar to the play that Uzomah scored on last week. The concept is essentially the same. It is a single width formation (receivers only spread out on one side) and they are running four verticals.

In the case of the Bengals touchdown on Thursday night, Drew Sample was the tight end on tight side of the formation, with Uzomah lined up as a wing outside of him. Sample ran up the seam and Uzomah released out wide for the fade route.

Likewise, Washington sent their tight end up the seam, but without another player available to run the fade, the wider vertical route came from the offset running back wheel. The pass was incomplete, but the matchup between a running back and a linebacker on this route was a favorable one.

This could be a great play for the Bengals with Mixon or Giovani Bernard. They could even put a wide receiver like John Ross or Mike Thomas in the backfield to run this route.

The slot-fade was a popular route for both LSU and the Bengals last season.

If you look at the top of the screen in this clip, you will see Washington running it just like the Bengals do.

The outside receiver runs a quick hitch and the slot receiver runs a fade over the top of time.

The Bengals have had trouble connecting on fade routes with their outside receivers. Running these routes from the slot will give them a more favorable matchup and more room to work between the receiver and the sideline.

Interestingly enough, the Eagles have played both Washington and the Los Angeles Rams this season, but Washington’s offense seems more compatible with the Bengals than that of Zac Taylor’s former team in Los Angeles.

This Rams’ play however stuck out as one the Bengals should incorporate.

It’s actually very similar to the slot-fade. Accept this time the receivers are stacked. At the bottom of the screen Darrell Henderson Jr. lines up stacked behind the Josh Reynolds.

This alignment created a pick that gave Henderson a head start on his route. The pass was completed, and it gave the Rams first-and-goal.


The Bengals need to create big plays in the passing game. These are just a few examples of how they could attack the Eagles defense in Week 3.