The Cincinnati Bengals showed many signs that they’re getting things back on track with a decisive 14-point win over the Cardinals. It was filled with explosive plays on both sides of the ball, and they’re hoping to parlay that into another big win this week.
It won’t be an easy task, though, as the Seattle Seahawks provide quite the tough test. Not many pundits are talking about their 3-1 start, but they’ll give everything the Bengals can handle this week.
To get a grasp on the matchup, we tapped the knowledge of John Gilbert over at SB Nation’s Field Gulls site. Here’s our conversation this week:
1.) AC: Talk to me about Geno Smith and what’s been the secret to his career renaissance. He’s thrown for 40 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions while completing close to 70% of his passes and led the Seahawks to an unlikely postseason appearance last year. What is he and the Seattle staff doing that wasn’t able to be achieved in New York?
JG: The biggest thing is that in the years between when he was a starter for the Jets and his time starting for the Seahawks is that he was afforded the opportunity to sit and learn behind three different Pro Bowl quarterbacks in Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson. That gave Geno the chance to learn by observing, which he wasn’t able to do with the Jets as he was thrust into starting when Mark Sanchez got hurt late in the preseason in Smith’s rookie year.
And it’s not difficult to tell that he took advantage of that time learning, as he’s consistently making the right reads and getting the ball where it needs to go. He’s certainly not perfect and is still relatively inexperienced in terms of snaps played in the NFL.
Just for comparison, Smith has played 3,547 regular season snaps, which is barely 400 more snaps than Joe Burrow, who is obviously a whole lot younger. So, while his production and numbers have far outshined what he did earlier in his career, he’s still learning and is a work in progress in terms of reaching his potential and likely still has room to improve his play and production.
2.) AC: Being on the West Coast, I was a big fan of Zach Charbonnet’s skill set coming into this year’s draft. How has the Seattle running game looked this year, and how will we see Charbonnet used as a rotational guy this week versus Cincinnati?
JG: Charbonnet has performed pretty much as most expected, though in a role that has been somewhat limited through the first four games the Seahawks have played. He’s only carried the ball 21 times, with another seven targets as a receiver, so a little more than a half dozen touches a game.
He’s performed when given the opportunity, and while Walker’s speed brings greater potential to generate the big play, Charbonnet has posted a slightly higher success rate than Walker to this point in the year.
It’s certainly a small sample so far, and fans are excited to see what the remainder of the season brings in terms of what he can do on the field.
3.) AC: The Seahawks have two ageless wonders on their team—one on each side of the ball in wide receiver Tyler Lockett and linebacker Bobby Wagner, who returned to Seattle after being with the Rams last year. What have these two meant to the team’s 3-1 start?
JG: One of the biggest points of concern for many fans for the duration of the offseason was the run defense, and the team effectively overhauled the entirety of the defensive front through free agency and the draft. So far, however, Wagner and the rest of the defense have been phenomenal against the run, and that’s likely in no small part due to improved play at linebacker.
As for Lockett, he’s been quieter than many had likely expected, but that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given the injury issues the Seahawks have faced on the offensive line. All five Week 1 starters have battled injuries this season, with both starting tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas missing the last three games, and that appears to have significantly impacted the production of both Lockett and rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba. As the line returns to health and the offense gets back to playing more in the style Pete Carroll likes with an increased number of deep shots, Lockett’s production will likely increase.
4.) AC: Give us a picture of just how good this Seahawks team is right now. I’m a big BIG Pete Carroll guy, and I know he has molded this team into winners over and over again. Here they are at 3-1, but they’ve also a couple of struggling teams like the Panthers and Giants. What do they do best? Is there a sense of some fool’s gold, or are they poised to build on a surprisingly strong 2022 season?
JG: The offense, in spite of a horrific second half against the Rams to open the season, is very good. They’re currently the sixth-highest scoring team in the league, and it would not be a surprise if that holds - or even improves - over the rest of the season. The defense is where there have been more question marks.
The defense dominated against the Giants in Week 4, but outside of that game they have faced some struggles. A lot of it was due to so many changes in personnel during the offseason, coupled with a whole lot of key members of the defense missing work in the offseason and/or training camp due to injury.
Basically, they’re a group that is still learning to play together as a unit, which means there will be times where they play lights out and look like a top tier group, and there will be other times when there are broken coverages or missed assignments that allow big plays. As the season moves along, they should improve as a unit, but if the Bengals offense is healthy and back on track, it could be the toughest test the Seattle defense has faced so far this season.
5.) AC: What’s your take on the outlook on this one here? On one hand, Cincinnati looks to “be back” after an explosive output versus Arizona, they may be getting Tee Higgins back and are at home. Still, the Seahawks look pretty solid across the board. How do you see this one playing out?
JG: I’m expecting this to be a very competitive game, and I think both offenses could have big days. Obviously, my hope is that the Seahawks come out ahead, but there’s a reason the Bengals are favorites, and it’s because they’ve got a dangerous offense and will be playing at home.
My prediction is that the Bengals win a close one, and my biggest hope is that it is not as heartbreaking a defeat as the Seahawks suffered the last time they played in Cincinnati.
Our thanks to John Gilbert for the insight ahead of the big Week 6 clash! Go check out our other side of the conversation at Field Gulls.