Football 101: Bengals Nickel Defense versus Jaguars


Adam Jones is an especial part of the Bengals’ nickel defense. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Nickel Defense is designed more for coverage than it is anything else. Essentially what it does is takes one of the front seven men out of a basic 4-3 or 3-4 alignment and replaces them with a defensive back. Typically this is a linebacker who is more apt in the stopping the run that may not excel in pass coverage. The name for the defensive back coming in for this situation is known as a “Nickel Back”.

**Side Note**

4-3 stands for: four linemen, and three linebackers.

3-4 stands for: three linemen, and four linebackers.

This package is used mainly to match up with the opposition’s offense when they choose to run with three wide receivers as two cornerbacks would not be enough for the defense to properly cover all these offensive options. It also allows for more zone coverage to be played, which is something the Bengals often use.  Take a look at this play for an example.

The Bengals

For the Bengals, this translates most of the time into Adam Jones coming into the game. In this situation, he would most likely replace Vontaze Burfict or, primarily, Rey Maualuga as they are better when stopping the run rather than the pass. Seeing as how Emmanuel Lamur is a good pass coverage linebacker, Lamur would typically be left in the game.

For Today’s Game

Today, fans should expect to see a lot of nickel even though Jacksonville likes to run the ball with Denard Robinson.  The Bengals are banged up at linebacker with Burfict and Maualuga not playing today, so the Jaguars would likely take advantage of this. If Jacksonville were to bring in multiple wide receiver sets and spread out the depleted linebacking corps, the middle could become extremely soft in terms of giving up big runs.

More from Stripe Hype

In terms of what this defensive alignment will look like for the Bengals is simple. With Burfict and Maualuga not playing, Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur will get most of the snaps today as they will be the two linebackers in pass coverage. If the Bengals see that they need more help “in the box,” where the front seven typically are, they may slide back-up safety Taylor Mays in the mix. In the past, we’ve seen Mays’ ability to play “in the box” and help cover tight ends.  He also provides quality support in the run game.

However, because the Bengals are thin at corner today with Darqueze Dennard listed as doubtful, and because the Bengals turn right around and play again Thursday, it should not surprise anyone to see a decent dose of Dre Kirkpatrick. He has played well on special teams all season and had a decent showing against Baltimore. It is time that the former first round pick gets some snaps and shows everyone what he can do. Leon Hall and Terrence Newman are going to be gassed this week. He needs to step up.