The Cincinnati Bengals should go into Thursday Night Football with the goal of exploiting the Cleveland Browns’ weak linebacker unit.
In an unsurprising turn of events, the optimism that surrounded the Cleveland Browns quickly came crashing down after they suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, 38-6. Now, the Cincinnati Bengals’ northern rivals will have to make a quick turnaround if they want to avoid losing the Battle of Ohio and falling into an 0-2 start.
Things in the Queen City haven’t gotten off to a glorious start either after kicker Randy Bullock shanked a would-be game-tying field goal in embarrassing fashion to seal a week one loss.
Beyond the end-game theatrics, the Bengals have plenty of issues to sort out themselves after the home opener saw rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow put in harms way far too often. If this new-look squad is to bust out of the cellar of the AFC North, it starts in the offensive trenches and beating the Browns.
Luckily for Zac Taylor and the rest of the offensive coaching staff, they can formulate a gameplan that masks the offensive line deficiencies by taking advantage of Cleveland’s weak linebacker unit.
Injuries make a weak Browns’ linebacker corps. even weaker
The orange and black faithful are all too familiar with watching a defense that has a strong defensive line but sub-par linebackers. Thankfully, the Bengals no longer seem to be in that sort of situation but that’s exactly where the Browns find themselves.
Players like Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, and Sheldon Richardson make for a ferocious front but behind them, things begin to fall apart. Cleveland trotted out Mack Wilson, B.J. Goodson, and Sione Takitaki against the Ravens, a less than ideal starting trio.
To make matters even worse, Wilson along with reserve Jacob Phillips (who played 20% of the teams defensive snaps in week one) have yet to participate in practice this week, leaving their status for Thursday night’s game up in the air.
Cincinnati has to attack this weakness. Unless the opposing linebackers are able to step up in a big way, there will be major mismatches if the team opts to focus their gameplan on C.J. Uzomah and Giovani Bernard. Those two typically don’t see a ton of targets but they should this week.
The mismatches don’t stop there. Tyler Boyd is a technician working over the middle in intermediates routes, a skillset that bodes well in this particular matchup. Not to mention, A.J. Green runs one of the best slant routes in the entire league, something Joe Burrow should be able to take advantage of repeatedly.
This sort of offensive gameplan will allow Burrow to get the ball out of his hands quickly, limiting the impact of a guy like Garrett. With any luck, the pressure won’t be able to hit home and we can see the new man under center get into a rhythm similar to the one we saw at the end of the Chargers game.
Just one day out from the contest against Cleveland, the first iteration of this game will go a long way in setting the tone for the Battle of Ohio in this new era of Bengals football.