Cincinnati Bengals: Five Players To Watch vs. the Falcons

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The Bengals defensive line will need to be effective on Sunday. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Front Four

In year’s past the Bengals’ front four hasn’t needed all that much help getting to the quarterback.  This has allowed the Bengals much flexibility when it comes to covering the pass as linebackers can drop into coverage and play free.  It also allows the Bengals’ defense to utilize the nickel formation predominantly; this will be important on Sunday.

Sticking with the theme here, the Falcons possess an incredibly deep and talented group at wide receiver with Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas, and Devin Hester; all of which accounted for at least 50 yards against the Saints.  The Bengals may need all the help they can get when trying to slow this group down.  Paul Guenther won’t be shy in using a well-timed blitz or two, but he’ll need to be careful not to leave his secondary with too many 1:1 match-ups on the outside nor to much space in the middle of the field.  This means the Bengals front will need to consistently pressure Matt Ryan on their own.  With the deep and talented rotation the Bengals possess, this shouldn’t be a huge issue come Sunday.  The Falcons allowed Matt Ryan to be sacked 44 times last year (third most in the league), so even with the improvement the Falcons have made, their line may be vulnerable.  On top of this, rookie tackle Jake Matthews may be hampered going into the game after suffering an ankle injury against the Saints.  The Bengals will need to take advantage of the Falcons susceptible line and get the pressure of Ryan and force him to make some ill-advised throws.

The Bengals defensive front will also need to be aware of the Falcons’ potentially dangerous running game.  Not only can their running backs catch passes, but they have the ability to break big plays while the Falcons’ receivers stretch the field.  Steven Jackson is looking for a bounce-back year following a disappointing 2013 and Jacquizz Rodgers possesses game-breaking ability.  The Falcons also possess rookie, and former National champion, Devonta Freedman and Antone Smith, who broke a catch for a 51-yard TD versus the Saints. The Bengals will need a strong effort from their front four, so a healthy and productive Geno Atkins would go a long way.

If the Bengals can get this kind of production from Atkins and his fellow linemen on Sunday, the Bengals will have a much easier time defending the Falcons’ potent pass attack.