Bengals: Five keys to victory over the Chargers in week one
Bengals’ keys to victory: Exploit the Chargers’ linebacker group
With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the defensive line and Casey Hayward and Chris Harris Jr. in the secondary, the Chargers have a strong defense. In order for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow to succeed in his first pro game, the Bengals will have to find any available soft spot to exploit.
For Zac Taylor and the Bengals’ staff, a weakness in the Chargers defense may be hard to find. Even so, one position stands out on the Chargers’ starting lineup that appears less stout than the others: the linebackers.
In their first unofficial depth chart of the season, the Chargers listed their three starting linebackers as Kyzir White, Denzel Perryman, and first-round-rookie Kenneth Murray. Behind the three starters, Drue Tranquill and former Bengal Nick Vigil are notable.
The Chargers linebacker group is by no means poor. However, without a true star at the position and Murray playing in his rookie debut, it is the closest thing to a weakness the Chargers have on defense.
If Murray struggles in his first game as a pro, he could be the Chargers’ Achilles heel that the Bengals need to exploit.
To go after the Chargers linebackers, the Bengals can hammer away at a few things in their gameplan. They can target their running backs and tight ends in the passing game and design runs to go after the linebackers.
If Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, C.J. Uzomah, and Drew Sample get high volume in the passing game, the linebackers may struggle to keep up. Additionally, Mixon is an elite player in the ground game who should be too much for the Chargers’ unit to handle.
It should be a tough day for Burrow as he adjusts to a new league. For Taylor to make it easy on his new quarterback, he should plan to go after the Chargers’ linebackers. They won’t be pushovers but they’re much preferable to challenging the secondary.