Are the Offensive Line’s Tight Splits Hurting the Running Game?
For much of the game, the Bengals lined up in 21 or 22 personnel, with two backs and one or two tight ends. In this alignment, the Bengals’ offensive line had very tight splits. This could be understandable if pass blocking were the issue, but the Bengals are overall a good pass-blocking unit.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has trouble squeezing through tight holes and his best years were running in the spread offense in New England.
On his 20-yard run, the Bengals aligned in a formation with three wide receivers and no fullback. With Green-Ellis’ running style, the fullback is not a necessary part of the equation. In fact, the space created out of a spread formation is much more helpful to Green-Ellis than a fullback ever would be.
At the snap, the Bengals take advantage of the defenses alignment to open up a large hole for Green-Ellis, who eats up a large chunk of yardage. With his lack of burst, Green-Ellis does best if defenders are not in a position to react immediately to his run. If he is isolated against a single defender, he is strong enough to create a positive gain, as well.
What the Bengals do to let Green Go Off
Although A.J. Green does have tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability, he is at his best when he is moving downfield. With his speed and big body, his momentum can create dangerous situations for defenders.
On his late-game, big-strike touchdown reception, Green was facing a defense that was in a deep-quarters, prevent coverage. Despite that, Green blows past Joe Haden, one of the better cornerbacks in the league. The safety is slow to react, and the slightest hesitation leaves him dead in the water.
Dalton throws the ball inside to where the safety should have been playing over the top of Green, and he makes an easy touchdown reception.
Here is another slant play similar to the Gresham touchdown, with Green isolated on one side of the formation. Green-Ellis releases into the flat, taking his defender with him and opening up the throwing lane.
Green makes the catch and positive yardage afterward. Again, with his size it is hard to defend. This is important to note, because it was a similar play in which Buster Skrine intercepted Dalton for a touchdown. Skrine was in good position, but he simply outmuscled Brandon Tate. Tate was knocked to the ground, completely legally, because he was not strong enough to box out his defender.
The Bengals Defensive Line Becomes Gassed Without a Rotation
One of the reasons the Bengals defensive line was so strong last season was due to its rotation. Look at the running game penetration early in the game.
Geno Atkins drives his man in the backfield to disrupt the play, and Domata Peko cleans up after him. This was on the first drive. Michael Johnson, Atkins and Peko played almost the whole game, with Carlos Dunlap taking the many of the snaps over Robert Geathers.
In the 4th quarter, the Bengals defensive line began getting pushed around, which is why Montario Hardesty had a better YPA than Trent Richardson. In fact, after this play, Devon Still began rotating in to give fresh legs to a defense that spent way too much time on the field. When Pat Sims recovers, he will be a welcome addition.