Though there isn’t a storied history between the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints, this Sunday brings a boatload of storylines. Whether it’s in a glut of 2019 NCAA National Champions from the legendary LSU Tigers team, Andy Dalton starting against his old team for the third consecutive year, or a bunch of former, talented Saints making their return to The Big Easy, there’s a lot to talk about for an inter-conference contest.
In previewing the game this week, we tapped one of our great resources for information on the Bengals’ weekly opposition in the BLEAV podcast network. On the Orange and Black Insider, we brought in David Grubb, who co-hosts the “BLEAV in Saints” show with former Saints wide receiver, Terrance Copper.
A couple of the many topics we covered included the reception expected by the home crowd for the players in those aforementioned designations. It should be particularly interesting when the focus is on Trey Hendrickson, Vonn Bell and/or (and especially) Eli Apple.
Still, regardless of the cold reception those guys may or may not receive, Grubb’s analysis and the latest injury report provided optimism for those guys to have a big impact on Sunday. When we asked about the offensive line, particularly at the tackle spots, Grubb didn’t give the most glowing report.
“It’s been a struggle,” Grubb said about the line’s play after the departure of Terron Armstead. “They have not done well, week-to-week. Cesar Ruiz, the first-round pick from a couple of years ago has underperformed, no matter what position he’s been in—whether it’s center or guard. Eric McCoy, who was on track to be an All-Pro center, has only been ‘good’; Ryan Ramczyk has been just good this year.”
When Grubb called those two lineman “good” it was both a compliment and an indictment. Still, the left tackle spot—the one Hendrickson will mostly be lined up against—has been the biggest issue.
“That left side of the Saints’ offensive line, in particular, has been the biggest issue,” Grubb continued. “Andrus Peat continues to be inconsistent there...I think what the Saints want to do is to have these guys be physical and the best way for an offensive line to do that is move forward. And, with this line, they’ve had a lot of penalties, a lot of big plays that have been called back.”
Grubb also noted that New Orleans will undoubtedly want to get the ball out of now-starter Andy Dalton’s hands quickly this week. That’s not something unfamiliar to Dalton, who was one of the tops in the league in pass delivery speed from snap in a few years with the Bengals.
But, this indictment of both Peat and James Hurst on the left side of the line bodes well for Hendrickson, who has been heating up the past few games. Sacks and forced fumbles would be great, but those trademark holding penalties No. 91 causes could be an element we see this week.
Hurst has a decent 68.3 overall PFF score as the team’s left tackle, while Peat has a 52.8 overall score. By comparison, Hendrickson has a solid 83.5 overall score. Throw in a little extra motivation for the Bengals’ edge defender, and we should see some splash plays.
For Apple and Bell, when you look at the injury report and see “out” designations for Jarvis Landry, Michael Thomas and Deonte Harty, that bodes well for the pass defense. Exciting rookie Chris Olave is questionable with a concussion, so it could be a ton of Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill. Especially considering Dalton is the “backup quarterback” at this point.
As for receptions of the former Saints, Grubb said that initial pregame intros should have pleasantries from the home crowd for Hendrickson and Bell. As for Apple? Not so much.
If you remember, Apple decided to rip the city of New Orleans and its fans last year on Twitter. However, since joining the Bengals, Apple has not only played the best pro football of his career, but he’s largely stepped up when called out and/or in big moments.
“For Eli Apple, it’s personal,” Grubb said. “I’ve had people ask me if there is anything Eli Apple could do to get New Orleans off of his back, and I’m like ‘This is New Orleans—we hold grudges’...the best hope for Eli Apple (and the hatred dissipating) is that people forget he exists in New Orleans.”
It’s gonna be a fun one this Sunday.
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