Despite the Bengals loss, there were some good things to take away from Saturday’s contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, including the offensive line’s first drive.
The Bengals chose to rest many of their best players while the Chiefs took a different tactic and put their starters on the field for the first series. This is important to note because it means that during the opening drive, the offensive line held up well against true NFL starting pass rushers. This makes the tweet below by Locked On Bengals host Joe Goodberry significant.
Not bad, at least from a pass protection standpoint. However, many fans accurately point out that the Chiefs defense was not trying to tip their hand by revealing their more elaborate blitz packages. Kansas City did blitz once during the opening series, but as is usually the case, Andy Dalton had the ball out of his hands too quick for it to matter. In fact, had the Chiefs decided to blitz Dalton more, it probably would have been to the Bengals advantage. Last season, Dalton was the third best quarterback against the blitz according to Pro Football Focus. (PFF)
Two commonly repeated phrases are used to describe Dalton. First, that he has one of the quickest releases in the NFL. Second, he has an incredibly high football IQ and is able to accurately identify defensive schemes during pre-snap reads.
These two abilities are what has made Dalton one of the best at identifying the blitz and getting the ball out over the heads of defenders. However, last year, the problem was that defenses started to figure this out. Instead of blitzing, they would dedicate more manpower to covering the Bengals pass catchers.. This eliminated Dalton’s quick options and allowed their defensive line more time to rush against a less than stellar Bengals offensive line.
So, what is there to prevent teams from doing the same thing this season? At last, the Bengals have a coaching staff that is making adjustments.
Last year, when defenses took away A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, the team basically asked receivers to go out and win one on one matchups and create separation purely based off of their talent. However, modern NFL schemes, like the one Zac Taylor has brought with him to Cincinnati, are designed to create separation and make the receivers jobs just a little bit easier.
To give you an idea of how big of an impact scheme can have on generating separation, see the following tweet from Joe Goodberry that shows how much room the Rams receivers had to work with, compared to the Bengals last season.
I’m sorry, but you can’t convince me that Josh Reynolds is one full yard of separation better than Green. This is the biggest change that accompanies Taylor and his staff. The coaches aren’t just going to let the receivers get covered up and hope that the offensive line can hold up long enough for Tyler Boyd to find a gap in the coverage. The Bengals are going to make adjustments. We know this because offensive coordinator Brian Callahan already said so in his offseason interview with Bengals Senior Staff Writer Geoff Hobson.
"“Everybody talks about halftime adjustments, but I think as a good play caller you’re adjusting series by series.” – Brian Callahan"
This is what people mean when they say that this is an “offensive line friendly” system. Pre-snap movement to put defenders in conflict, quick outlet routes to neutralize the blitz, and utilizing Dalton’s quick release. This all helps as far scheming receivers open to create separation and prevent the defense from simply using a “cover and rush the passer” mentality. Most importantly, it sounds as if everything will be adjusted as events warrant.
Just knowing that there’s a coaching staff in place that sounds like they’re getting ready to play chess instead of checkers on Sunday gets me pretty excited to see what more then one series of this offense is going to look like.