Remember prior to the Bye? At that point, the Bengals 2012 season was looking as though it was going to be one of the more unbearable slumps in recent memory, and many of us were praying to simply break even come Week 17. Oh, the difference a month and a half makes…
This weekend may actually see the angry tiger claw its way out of the basement in what could be the biggest statement game of the past two decades for the Cincinnati Bengals. On a personal note, I’ve been amped since late Sunday afternoon, when Dallas handed Pittsburgh the loss that tee’d-up the Bengals to knock them out of the playoff hunt. Since then I’ve been scouring SIRUS satellite radio, ESPN and local sports networks, gleaning any reference or mention of the upcoming AFC North match-up. What I’ve heard has me concerned that the Bengals may be one of the most overlooked playoff contender teams in the NFL. Just to get us all on the same page, I’d like to share with you five commonly overheard comments from around sports media that aren’t quiet as accurate as they may have been.
The Bengals Offensive Line is a Problem lately. One announcer said after Cincinnati beat Philadelphia that when Andy Dalton gets sacked, it means the Bengals chances of winning are reduced. On the surface, I gave this statement about four-and-a-half of five “Duhs” on my No Duh scale of obvious analysis. But more frustrating is that a central reason to the Bengals difficulties on offensive are so close to this statement and get ingloriously over-simplified. The wholly unnecessary shifts at center position have been both an achilles heel and a shot in the arm for the run game as well as Dalton’s pass protection. Early in the season when Jeff Faine was brought on and splitting snaps with rookie Trevor Robinson after incumbent starter Kyle Cook was placed on the IR, the Bengals line looked shaky and induced an above average number of false starts and holding calls. Chalk it up to growing pains, whatever. After the Bye week, when the snap-sharing stopped, BenJarvus Green-Ellis exploded, largely in part to Robinson’s run blocking. Now, with Cook re-activated the snap-sharing game is back on, but so is a record number of False Start and Holding calls for this season. It would appear that Cook and Robinson have radically different skill-sets; Robinson appears significantly stronger and more capable to pushing and holding ground, while Cook is savvier and leading rushers and breaking into more complicated downfield blocking schemes. On paper, being able to utilize both in a single game reads well, but in reality it is evolving into a significant degree of confusion on the offense which can’t originate with the guy snapping the ball. Robinson, a guard at Notre Dame, was one of two undrafted rookie free agents to make the final 53-man roster after the pre-season (the other was Vontaze Burfict). I not sure that it matters who gets the start as both can work, but Cincinnati needs to stick with one guy. In sum, it’s not the offensive line that is a problem – it was ranked 5th overall by PFF not four weeks ago – but the revolving door at center must be closed before Sunday.
Additionally, as far as second year guard Clint Boling goes, his poor play against the Eagles was a significant contribution to the stagnant Bengals offense and giving up five sacks on Thursday Night. For the record, Boling missed practice the Wednesday before the game due to Illness. Reports indicate that he played while he was significantly under the weather, which not only accounts for his weakness and sluggish play but also speaks to his character as Boling played every snap of the game. I would be very surprised if he plays that poorly a second week in a row.