Bengals’ Defense vs. Browns’ Running Game
While the Browns’ defense entered the Eagles’ backfield almost at will, the Browns’ offensive line was just as generous allowing defenders to pass. Especially when the Browns ran the stretch-zone or inside-zone running plays, defenders were allowed upfield.
As show in the picture, every Eagles defender has crossed the face of his blocker. The backside defensive tackle makes the play, crossing the right guard’s face and continuing to make the play. Of course, gap discipline is paramount to eliminating cutbacks and neutralizing the running game (I’m looking at you, Rey) but the Bengals’ defensive line rotation should be up to the task, especially Geno Atkins against a pair of sub-par guards.
The gap-shooting Bengals’ scheme will also come into play against the pass since Weeden had trouble going through his progressions under pressure. It is a problem typical of many spread quarterbacks transitioning to the NFL, as they only read half the field and rarely have more than a first option and check down to progress through.
Weeden was the most comfortable in the shotgun, as this was the formation in which he spent the most time at Oklahoma State. When forced to run a play action fake, however, Weeden especially struggled. In the spread-shotgun, Weeden not only did not drop back while reading the defense, he most certainly did not have to anticipate coverage with his back to a defense while faking a handoff.
In the picture, Weeden has just faked a handoff to Richardson. His eyes immediately move to Ben Watson, who is his first read. Watson is painfully open due to a coverage breakdown, but Weeden can not pull the trigger. While he stands like a deer in headlights, the pass rush gets to him and he throws the ball away.
Keeping Weeden uncomfortable in the pocket is a big key to winning the game.
Bengals’ Cornerbacks vs. Browns’ Passing Concepts
The Browns feature a wide-receiver corps long on talent but short on refinement. Josh Gordon’s route tree consists of the fade, slant and crossing pattern. The Browns offense, in fact, ran the slant heavily in addition to hi-lo concepts.
Both of these are outstanding for combating zone coverage, but when coverage was disguised Weeden often failed to compensate accordingly. If the Bengals’ cornerbacks play disciplined then they should have no problem shutting down those concepts.
Against the slant, the defenders must stay on the upfield shoulder and not allow receivers like Greg Little and Gordon to find daylight to run towards. In the accompanying picture at the bottom, the athletically-gifted rookie Travis Benjamin gets a step on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartieto make an easy target for Weeden. Leon Hall always is a sound technician, and Nate Clements will hold up fine, but Terrence Newman needs to minimize his mental lapses.
The other highly-used concept is the high-low passing game. This is perfect to make an
easy read for the quarterback. A running back or receiver runs into the flat underneath a cornerback in zone, while a receiver lines up inside the numbers to run an out-breaking route or a corner route. This concept is shown in the accompanying picture.
This tempts the zone corner to work downfield to the underneath route, creating a hole between the safety and cornerback. If Hall and Newman sink back and keep in mind the high-receiver, then Weeden’s inaccuracy will be tested in trying to hit a small window. Chances are he will take the short yards if he is challenged.