One of the reasons both fans and players alike love Mike Zimmer is his straightforward style. He will not sugarcoat the horrific and he will not modestly discount the great. With this style, he will also not likely find a head coaching position, which is just as much about PR as anything. Luckily he has a foil in Marvin Lewis that allows him to act and coach how he pleases.
Epitomized in Zimmer’s personality is his reaction after Sunday’s win over the Browns. While most coaches would react in coach speak, Zimmer said that the Bengals “don’t pass rush, pass cover, stop the run, stop the pass. We don’t tackle and play with enough effort.”
It is a refreshing outlook after a disgusting performance. The projections for a 30th-ranked defense certainly do not look bright and sunny, but Zimmer’s penchant for making the most out of what he has to work with provide a slight optimism for a defense full of holes.
Add in the fact that Rey Maualuga played like a vapid, sub-replacement level player, and Zimmer’s declaration of a depth chart shakeup will be coming gave fans hope that Vontaze Burfict’s start at Will linebacker was an audition to replace Maualuga.
Considering the upcoming opponent, the Robert-Griffin-III-led Washington Redskins, the comment may be indicative of a positional shift as much as anything. With Mike and Kyle Shannahan integrating Baylor’s spread offense with their West Coast offense and its zone-blocking scheme, many of the Bengals’ current starters may be better served playing in different spots on Sunday.
Before the roster was trimmed down to the final 53, the preseason saw Nate Clements playing at strong safety in nickel packages. This has faded in memory, but the immenent return of cornerback Jason Allen will provide the numbers to allow such flexibility.
When Clements moved to strong safety, Jeromy Miles moved into the slot cornerback position. He played effective and hard-nosed coverage, using his hard-nosed strong-safety attitude for run support and to disrupt screen passes. He is also surprisingly good in coverage.
One of the Redskins’ favorite package plays has RGIII lining up in shotgun with his running back to his left. He can either hand off to the running back for a stretch-zone to the right or pick a bubble screen option that is available on either side, with twin receivers flanking the formation.
This play lends itself to Miles perfectly. I broke down how the Rams defended the Redskins’ package plays earlier this week, but the Week 1 game against the Saints is better to show how the Rams might match up. Both play with a sing-high safety frequently, and the Bengals will likely play a generous amount of zone coverage based on the Redskins offense and personnel makeup.
When this play is run, Griffin usually throws to the left. To his right, the strong safety is playing in the box, nullifying the numerical advantage of throwing the bubble screen there. The run also goes to the right, where the linemen run block and overaggressive linebackers (more, much more, on that later) will flow to that side.
This opens up the weak side of the formation, where tight end/wide receiver Niles Paul is often lined up as the outside receiver to block. It has become more obvious why the Redskins cut ties with Chris Cooley this training camp: they are looking for a player who can line up outside but still serves mainly as a blocker. The 6-1, 233 pound Paul is well-suited for that role.
If Miles can line up close to the line of scrimmage and shed Paul’s block, his excellence as an open field tackler will lend itself to shutting down this play.