The Bengals struggle to move the ball up the middle but compensate with brilliant scheming from offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Gruden is in demand for a reason: he makes defenses look foolish. It isn’t just the passing game that works in their favor, it’s also the run game when Gruden takes BenJarvus Green-Ellis (their workhorse) out of it.
Last week in a win over the Redskins, the Bengals ran the ball a total of 28 times and Green-Ellis only carried 17 of them. Andy Dalton had two attempts for 16 yards, but it isn’t just about Dalton being able to run as well as pass. The ball went to six skill position players in the game and every one of them resulted in positive yardage except one. Specificaly, Brian Leonard, A.J. Green, and Andrew Hawkins looked dangerous throughout the game. Leonard had two carries for 18 yards, Green had one for 11, and Hawkins had two for 16 yards. Of Cincy’s 93 rushing yards, these three accounted for 48% on a meager five plays. Most of those players were trick plays like end arounds in order to exploit a stingy Washington middle.
I highlight this in order for us to better understand the adaptability of the Bengals offense. This offense is not an offense that needs to stick to a gameplan to wear out the opponent. Gruden understands that he has playmakers and getting the ball in their hands can do things that wearing down the defense can’t. When Hawkins touches the ball on an end around the defensive coordinator will have a fit because he knows its something that is too tough to defend. Green-Ellis isn’t a premier back, but he’s good enough that if you try too much at containing the offense’s big plays on the outside you run the risk of him beating you between the tackles. It’s a tough predicament for the Jaguars.
This will really test the gap discipline of the Jaguars’ linebackers and the run stopping ability of the the defensive ends. Andre Branch has surprised in his ability as a rookie defensive end in stopping the run, but he will probably be targeted the most by these trick plays. Branch has demonstrated that he can bite too easily on fakes and the Bengals will undoubtedly have observed this. Unfortunately, with Russell Allen or Kyle Bosworth helping Branch on whatever side he is on (Daryl Smith is still out with injury) the Jaguars will have a very tough matchup when the Bengals give the ball to their unorthodox ball carriers.
On top of worrying about the Bengals’ offensive tricks and gimmicks, the team can also play some very good traditional passing. Dalton is not to be underestimated and A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins, Armon Binns, and Jermaine Gresham can’t be allowed space to get the ball in their hands and do what they want with it. I have confidence in the Jaguars back four, but it will still be tough to contain this offense.
The difference in this game may just be Jay Gruden vs the Jaguars personnel. Mel Tucker demands a lot of discipline from his defensive players, but sometimes the opposing coordinator is just too good at exploiting weaknesses.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims