When the Cincinnati Bengals Have the Ball
In last week’s game against the Bears, the Bengals showed why Tyler Eifert is so important to Jay Gruden’s offensive goal of running a pile of different packages out of base personnel. Eifert lined up at flanker with Mohammed Sanu in the slot a number of times, and certainly look for more of those mismatches.
But with Pittsburgh’s cornerback depth depleted by injuries, the Bengals are likely to dress more than the four wide receivers that were in stripes against the Bears.
Cincinnati needs to show more spread looks against the Steelers for three important reasons:
- The Bengals have a large number of talented and capable wide receivers, and by spreading them out it creates more one-on-one matchups.
- Most importantly, A.J. Green will be isolated more on the outside, with the defense spread thin.
- That will force Pittsburgh to make a choice: either let Green remain isolated on the outside, or pull Troy Polamalu out of the box to assist in coverage, negating the extreme havoc that he causes in the box with his mastery of snap counts.
By using spread formations, the Bengals will create the open space in which Giovani Bernard succeeds, perhaps allowing them to give him more touches and take advantage of his over 5 YPC. On the other hand, if the Steelers continue to load the box and blitz, that could keep Bernard on the sidelines and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in pass protection.
Finally, despite the late-season win in 2012, Andy Dalton has still yet to show he has a good handle on the Dick LeBeau zone blitzers. James Harrison, a longtime Steeler-turned-Bengal, has more than a working knowledge of LeBeau’s defense. Can his tutelage help an increasingly confident Dalton take the next step against the AFC North rival?