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By: MacGregor Wells
SB Nation’s Bengals expert Anthony Cosenza answers our questions on the Cincinnati Bengals.
The New York Jets try to put together a winning streak when they host the Cincinnati Bengals this week, following the miracle win against the Cleveland Browns last week. Previewing this matchup, Anthony Cosenza of Cincy Jungle was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2022 Bengals.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. If you were the head coach of another team, how would you go about attacking the Bengals on offense and on defense? Where are the areas of vulnerability for the Bengals?
Teams are taking notes from late last season and going with a lot of two-deep safety shells and some “Tampa 2” defensive looks to combat the Bengals’ explosiveness. It seems to have bred impatience and discomfort, hence the complete lack of big plays (or even shots, for that matter), the sacks and hits. Capable defensive lines have had their way with even the newly-rebuilt Bengals offensive line, be it because of the scheme forcing Joe Burrow to hold the ball longer in some cases, or the big guys (particularly the tackles, which is very surprising) getting beat one-on-one.
Cincinnati’s defense has been pretty solid this year, in terms of getting off of the field on third down and limiting points (just allowing 18 points per game, despite the team being minus-four in the turnover margin this year), but they are not creating a lot of sacks (just two on the year), or turnovers (just one in 2022). Eli Apple is playing the best football of his career, but he can be a corner to be exploited, especially if pass protection holds up. Cincinnati has done a better job in bringing in personnel who match up well against tight ends, but there’s always potential for a mismatch there—especially with the group in which the Jets invested this offseason.
2. The Bengals have opened this season with two losses in which they have scored 20 points or less. That never happened all last year. What are the primary causes of the Bengals’ struggles on offense? Is it just an offensive line that has yet to gel after some key changes in the offseason, or do the problems run deeper than that?
The offensive line is struggling, no doubt. Tackles La’el Collins and Jonah Williams have each been beaten a few times this year against stout defensive fronts and now Collins is battling a back issue that has hung around since training camp. Teams have taken away Cincinnati’s ability to pop a big play downfield with deep coverages, so they’ll need to work the sticks, bring the defense up and then try and go over the top.
Cincinnati’s running game isn’t that great, either. It’s predictable when they do run (almost always under center and never from shotgun) and Joe Mixon is either getting disrupted in the backfield, or failing to make defenders miss. Honestly, nothing is working very well on that side of the ball right now, save for the pass-catchers who are making plays when the ball does come their way.
3. Could you fill in Jets fans regarding the most significant additions and losses to the Bengals roster since last year? How is the Bengals’ 2022 draft class looking, and why aren’t the top picks getting much playing time?
When you’re the AFC Champions and lost just two significant players in the offseason (C.J. Uzomah and Larry Ogunjobi), it’s an enviable position from other clubs’ vantage points. Cincinnati’s draft class hasn’t been asked to play very much because their first-round pick, Dax Hill, is backing up former All-Pro safety Jessie Bates (and playing a bit of a swing corner/safety role at times) and many others were added as depth pieces. Second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt is on short-term I.R., but fourth-round pick Cordell Volson won the starting left guard job in camp and has been playing to mixed results, at best.
Free agency saw the Bengals net three other new starters on the offensive line (Collins, center Ted Karras and guard Alex Cappa), as well as Hayden Hurst as Uzomah’s replacement. Otherwise, it was a lot of retaining their own guys with expiring deals (Bates on the franchise tag, B.J. Hill, Apple and others) and attempting to “run it back again”.
4. There are always unsung players on any team that fans of that team love and know their value but fans of other teams may not be so familiar with. Could you let Jets fans know about a player on offense and a player on defense for the Bengals that fits the bill?
Good question. How familiar are Jets fans with Tyler Boyd? I’m sure most know about the Bengals’ “big three” at wide receiver, but Boyd gets lost in the fanfare sometimes. Super-reliable hands and one of the savviest route-runners in football. I wouldn’t call him a “Bengals fan favorite”, but backup running back Samaje Perine does a lot of rotational work in the backfield, including the dirty work of pass protection.
On defense, I’ll go with linebacker Germaine Pratt. He made some nice strides last season and was pretty sound against the run in Week 1. Slot corner Mike Hilton has to be one of the fan favorites on defense, as well.
5. If you were a betting man, which team would you pick to win this game?
This matchup last year taught us anything can happen in the NFL. That unexpected loss by the Bengals to the Jets ended up being a bit of a wake-up call for Cincinnati, though. And, now, here we are with the 0-2 Bengals sniffing “must-win” territory.
I don’t like many things about this matchup for the Bengals and the Jets seem like a team on the rise that could make some noise as early as this or next season. I’m also very disheartened by Cincinnati’s offensive performance of late.
Still, if you really look closely at Cincinnati’s losses this year, they’ve been flukey and down-to-the-absolute-wire, with two last-second field goals putting them in the “L column”. Some people are calling this a “get-right game” for the Bengals, but I don’t really see that – I see more of a “find a way to win, even if ugly” contest that will once again be a character contest for Cincinnati’s season.
Depending on the day, the odds have been somewhat heavily tipped in Cincinnati’s favor in this one—which has been the case for them this year and they haven’t responded. Joe Flacco has had ups and downs in his career against the Bengals and Cincinnati fares better against quarterbacks with whom they are familiar. I’ll go with a slight Bengals win where they don’t cover the spread.
Originally posted on Gang Green Nation