Steelers – Bengals Round 1: Film Study: Despite the Doldrums, Gruden & Dalton can be Outstanding

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Against Cover 3, Gruden dials up a play to put the cornerback under duress and give room for a nice gain by running two verticals with the double tight ends.

Despite that, Gruden did manage to dial up an outstanding play to beat Cover 3 out of a big formation. With Gresham and Orson Charles lined up to the left of the formation, both are sent on go routes that force the cornerback to divide his attention between the two.

In this play, and the next we discuss, Dalton is so eager to make the play that he does not patiently set his feet, shift his weight and drive through the throw. It could be argued that Charles is more open on the outside than Gresham is on the seam, but a good throw would have hit an open Gresham for a solid gain.

The Smash 7 concept with A.J. Green running the corner route is not as effective against a coverage that is based in man-to-man

This smash 7 concept is a classic way to beat a Cover 2 defense.  Even despite the Steelers’ coverage, with Taylor on the outside matching up with Green in the slot running the corner route, the concept still could work.

The outside receiver runs a quick out route, and despite the double coverage on the top, Green still has a small window to hit. Dalton sees the small opening and is all too eager to hit Green, who, outside a touchdown reception, has not made a big play all game.

Dalton hurries his throw to fit the ball through the window and throws it off his back foot. Jay Cutler uses this technique all of the time, but Cutler has the howitzer arm to make the throw. Dalton does not.

Green almost manages to pull the sailing ball down with one hand, but fails to make what would have been the catch of the year.

Earlier in the game, Dalton showed another instance of rushing a throw before it was ready. He made the smart choice, checking out of his first read, a curl to Green,  when an underneath defender jumped into his throwing lane.

Instead of looking to another option, and perhaps an open Gresham was overlooked due to his drops, Dalton immediately goes to his check-down option. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had just released out of the backfield, and Dalton chucks it at him before he can get his head around. In a clean pocket, Dalton’s impatience again cost him a completion.

Dalton’s trigger-happy impatience aside, there were positives to be garnered from the Bengals. The offensive line is quickly becoming one of the strengths of the team. I will discuss their excellence during the bye week doldrums that we have staring us in the face.

Mohammed Sanu has become more than just a trick-play quarterback that can chuck it a mile. His large stature and sure hands allow him to be incredibly effective on curls and slants, giving Dalton sure yards when he is targeted. He also runs the ball well coming in from the slot or even out of the backfield when lined up next to Dalton in a shotgun formation.

He also shows outstanding awareness on wide receiver screens. He secures the ball well and instinctively reads his blocks. He will likely spend the bye week becoming more integrated into the offense, spelling Andrew Hawkins in the slot in order to keep Baby Hawk rested and more explosive when the right situation presents itself.

Like any young unit, there are growing pains, but the Bengals have a great deal of possibilities facing them during the bye week. How Gruden responds against Denver will be telling of his growth as an offensive coordinator that can put people in a position to be outstanding.

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