Scouting the enemy: Cincinnati Bengals

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As a preview to the Packers Sunday afternoon battle with the Cincinnati Bengals, Packernet will take an in-depth look at the competition. Who are the Bengals, how are they playing and what should we watch for?

Stats provided by Pro Football Focus. Be sure to check out their Edge and Elite subscriptions.

Quarterback

Currently Andy Dalton is in a bit of a slump, which is a pretty serious understatement. To date, Dalton has completed 36 of 66 passes (55%) for 394 yards, no touchdowns, and 4 interceptions and is rockin’ a QBR of 47.2. At this rate Dalton is on track for the worst year of his career throwing for only 3,152 yards, 54 yards less than his worst season.

The worst part for Dalton is the lack of excuses. The fact that he’s been sacked 8 times is shocking, and at first glance, is the cause of all his ills. Unfortunately, although a serious problem for the Bengals in general, Dalton has been horrible under all conditions.

As an example, Dalton when under pressure is 7 of 17 for 79 yards. Good for a QB rating of 55.8. Pretty bad right? Seems like the pressure is causing problems. Here are his stats when he has a clean pocket, 29 of 49 for 315 yards and 4 interceptions. Yes all 4 picks came when there was 0 pressure. His QB rating when there is no pressure is 44.2, worst in the NFL (If you don’t count Scott Tolzien at 33.8).

As further evidence of his poor play, his completion percentage of 54.5 is better than only Case Keenum in Minnesota.

Running Backs

For years the tandem of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard provided the thunder and lightning for the Bengals. In 2017, the Bengals made the decision to mix things up and added Joe Mixon. Mixon fell to the Bengals in the second round but that was entirely due to his off the field issues (caught on camera knocking a woman out cold). As far as talent, Mixon is a first round talent all day and was thought by some to be the best back in the draft. That’s saying a lot considering the depth of talent.

With that said, Mixon is still struggling to learn the system and is being brought in slowly. Although leading the backfield, the distribution has been fairly even with Mixon getting 17 carries to Bernard and Hill’s 12 each.

Although I expect Mixon to be a good player at some point and am concerned with the Packers injuries, the youth of Mixon, poor play of the offensive line, and general struggles of the offense help to alleviate any fears I have of Mixon’s raw talent.

Wide Receiver

On this team there’s A.J. Green and there’s everyone else. Green is a 6’4 monster that has dominated the league since 2011. His only season under 1,000 yards receiving came last year when he amassed 964 yards in just 10 games, his highest yards per game average of his career and on pace for over 1,500 yards.

All that to say, as long as he’s playing, I don’t care what woes the team may have, he’s a massive threat.

Fortunately for the Packers, despite the dangers a guy like Green brings, there isn’t much to be afraid of behind him. Brandon LaFell has never really been a great wide receiver and is currently having one of his worst years.

Alex Erickson is a second year slot receiver that is playing a little better than his rookie year but if there is anything to be afraid of it’s the person the Packers put across from him.

Tight End

Possibly the biggest news of the game from the Bengals perspective is the loss of tight end Tyler Eifert. Eifert isn’t just a great receiver, he’s a versatile weapon that can line up anywhere on the field. In the absence of Eifert, the Bengals will likely have to mix and match Tyler Kroft and Ryan Hewitt based on situation.

Tyler Kroft is the receiver of the group running routes just about every time he’s on the field. Hewitt is the blocker lining up primarily in the backfield as a fullback.

However the Bengals decide to use their tight ends, the lack of versatility slows the pace of the game as the Bengals will need to substitute based on situation. More importantly, it gives the Packers a clue as to the intention of the offense on a given play.

Offensive Line

In short, this is the worst thing I’ve seen in my life. Everything that could be said about the Seahawks and their inability to block can be said times 10 for the Bengals. The only real positives of the group are the guards ability to pass block, grading out as average. Everything else is abysmal.

As for the tackles Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi, the only metric that is inside of the top 50 is Ogbuehi’s pass blocking grade, and it is JUST inside the top 50. Both tackles run block grade, Fishers pass block grade, as well as their overall grades are outside the top 50.

As for the guards, Clint Boling and T.J. Johnson, I mentioned the pass blocking was average but left out the part where they are both just barely in the top 50. Neither has a run blocking grade inside the top 50.

Center Russell Bodine is comfortably in the top 50. In fact he’s nearly in the top 30. Impressive until you realize there are only roughly 32 centers in the NFL. From that context, it’s safe to say he’s in the conversation for worst in the NFL. Bodine’s pass blocking grade is easily the worst in the NFL and it isn’t even close.

Defensive Backs

The Bengals have possibly the most average group of corners in the NFL. Everything about them is average. Adam Jones is the only one of the group that has had a good career but is turning 33 at the end of this month.

More than likely, the success of the Bengals corners will have less to do with the them and more to do with the Packers receivers and Aaron Rodgers. There isn’t anyone on this team capable of stopping Rodgers and these receivers at home when they are in rhythm.

They are, however, plenty capable of shutting down a battered and bruised offense struggling to find its rhythm. Let’s hope for a top notch performance through the air.

Linebackers

Possibly the biggest area of confusion is at linebacker. Their top linebacker, Burfict, is suspended. Their next best linebacker, Kevin Minter, is currently ranked in the top 10 in the NFL. Strangely he’s only taken 57 snaps this season.

The primary linebackers have been Vincent Rey and Nick Vigil. Vigil, their worst linebacker by a lot, has taken the most snaps of any linebacker.

Assuming the Bengals are going to take Minter, their MLB off the field in nickel situations, expect the Packers to play 3 wide a lot.

Defensive Line

A.J. Green isn’t the only guy to be afraid of. Along the defensive, the A.J. Green of the group goes by the name of Geno Atkins. His grade may not always reflect it but make no mistake, the man is elite.

Currently ranked in the top 5 along the defensive line, the 6’1 302 pound monster has been wreaking havoc on offensive lines since 2010.

If there’s anything that could disrupt what should otherwise be an easy win, it would be a man like Geno Atkins keeping Rodgers from being able to get the offense rolling as well as shutting down any hope of a run game (something the Bengals haven’t been very successful at thus far).

Edge Rushers

Speaking of guys upsetting Rodgers’ rhythm, the Bengals have a couple good players along the edge. Carlos Dunlap is a well known player that has had a great career in Cincinnati. Along side him are second year player Jordan Willis and rookie Carl Lawson.

Dunlap and Willis are solid all around players but are much more dominant in the run game, Dunlap in the top 10 against the run.

Rookie Carl Lawson is the pass rusher of the bunch. He’s the top pass rusher on the team and is already has a top 20 pass rush grade in the NFL. He currently has the top edge rush grade of all 2017 rookies.

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