Perhaps other Bengals fans were like me. Upon hearing that Jadeveon Clowney was being traded to the Seattle Seahawks ahead of Sunday’s season opener, you imagined that GIF of Jim Carrey from Liar Liar spitting water and screaming “oh, come on!” However, the Bengals have a pass rush too.
Last year, the Cincinnati offensive line finished 27th according to Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) end of season rankings. There have been many articles written about whether the offensive line has gotten slightly better/worse or stayed the same.
The hope in Cincinnati is that a new scheme will help the line perform better. Still, we can all agree that it is less than ideal to have a talented player like Clowney suddenly joining the opposition at the 11th hour. Thus, it is not really a surprise that Sam Ainger, a notable member of the Bengals UK community, would see the following results from his latest poll.
However, here is a message for Bengals fans. Whatever concern you have about Clowney and the Seahawks rush, know that Seattle’s fans should be even more concerned. To put it bluntly, Carl Lawson is a more dangerous pass rusher then Clowney. No, really. Look at this graphic tweeted by PFF’s Gordon McGuinness.
Second among edge rushers… and Clowney is not first. Now, don’t get me wrong, Clowney is definitely a threat. However, everybody is worried about him sacking Andy Dalton because of the weakness Cincinnati seems to have at offensive tackle. Clowney may also be on a snap count considering he just got to Seattle. Regardless, he is not an elite edge rusher. He lacks the technique and flexibility of Lawson. Let’s take a moment and appreciate some of Lawson’s best work compiled by Stripe Hype’s very own Damian Parson.
Notice how Lawson bends around the edge to collapse the pocket on the quarterback. At the very least, he forces the quarterback to step up directly into the path of another Bengals pass rusher, like Geno Atkins. Now let’s look at some Clowney best sacks compiled by PFF’s Austin Gayle.
Clowney can get home, but it is more likely going to come from Cincinnati’s rebuilt interior line making an error and allowing him to charge straight up the gut as opposed to coming off the edge. Still, that means he’ll be going through what I will generously call the “strength” of the Cincy offensive line. Even when Clowney is able to penetrate the middle of the line, he is going to be coming straight at Dalton. This is important. If Dalton can see the rusher coming, he has proven that he has the ability to get rid of the football before taking a sack.
Admittedly, a linemen charging through the center of the line is not the same thing as a linebacker blitzing. The point is that a rusher that Dalton sees coming is far less dangerous than an edge defender crushing him from his blindside like Carl Lawson does to opposing quarterbacks. It is for this reason that I feel even with a huge mobility edge, Russell Wilson is at greater risk than Dalton of finding himself lying on the turf Sunday.
One final word of encouragement before we all sit down and watch the Bengals and Seahawks do battle. You may have seen the statistic showing Seattle’s record during home openers. If you have not, brace yourself because I’m going to show it to you now.
Seattle hasn’t lost a home opener since 2008. In fact, Seattle has won 15 of its past 16 home openers going back to 2003. That sounds bad if you are Cincinnati. Here is the other side of the coin though. The Seahawks are notoriously slow starters during the Pete Carroll era. They have only a .389 winning percentage through the first two weeks of the season. That jumps up to .650 throughout the rest of the season.
The Bengals have there work cut out for themselves Sunday, but Seattle doesn’t spend big on the offensive line. Moreover, Lawson, Geno Atkins, and Carlos Dunlap know how to bother quarterbacks. The pass rushing numbers could very well be close to even. If that happens, the Bengals may be on the path to an upset.