When the Bengals Run the Ball:
Just as the Browns run game is not a good matchup against the Bengals run defense, the Bengals run game is not a good matchup against the Browns run defense either. The Browns have a very good defense, the strength of which is the run defense (6th in the NFL – 98.2 ypg). And, while the Bengals running attack is much better than that of the Browns, it is average at best – 18th (108.1 ypg). In Part I of the Battle of Ohio, BJGE and Bernard only ran the ball 16 times for 50 yards (3.1 ypc).
I suspect Gruden has learned his lesson the past few weeks and will run the ball more on Sunday (prediction: 25+ runs), but I don’t expect much more success the second time around – especially with Zeitler out and Cook, Whitworth and BJGE all at less than 100%. However, the Bengals don’t need a huge game running the ball, they simply need enough success to get the DBs peeking in the backfield. Doing so allows the Bengals to effectively use play action passing and also pulls the linebackers and safeties a little closer to the line of scrimmage, therefore opening up some opportunities for the Bengals receivers and TEs.
In the first game in Cleveland, the Bengals had absolutely no run game and Dalton struggled because of it. If the Bengals cannot establish some sense of a run game Sunday, Dalton may struggle again, just like he did in the first matchup and just like he has the last two games. Right now, I don’t trust this Bengals run game and I don’t trust the runs Gruden calls.