Bengals: 3 things to watch vs. the Vikings in Week 1
1. Cincinnati Bengals pass rush
One way to shut down or limit good offensive teams is by making them one-dimensional. The Bengals have some concerns in their passing defense week one thanks to Trae Waynes’ unfortunate injury.
Replacing Waynes is Eli Apple, who has struggled at times throughout his career. This is not ideal versus a team that often runs personnel that is run-heavy, which means only two receivers are on the field. This basically takes away the newly added slot cornerback Mike Hilton, guaranteeing that if Apple starts he will be on either Thielen or Justin Jefferson.
Thankfully, the Bengals have a good safety duo in Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell, which can provide some security behind the starting corners. No matter what, Apple could be a liability in the secondary that is continuously picked on if he doesn’t perform well.
To combat the loss of Waynes in the secondary, Cincinnati’s pass rush will be key. Winning the line of scrimmage usually ends in victory at pretty much every level of football. The Bengals defensive line must show up ready to play, and most importantly, put pressure on the quarterback.
Trey Hendrickson has his favorable matchup against the backup offensive tackle Rashod Hill. In addition, Minnesota is expected to have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL this season. Pro Football Focus ranked the Vikings offensive line at 27 heading into the 2021-22 season.
Similar to the Bengals, Minnesota has some concerns with the interior of their offensive line this season. Cincinnati has some good defensive tackles in D.J. Reader, Larry Ogunjobi, and the newly-added B.J. Hill. Reader and Hill have the second and third-highest pass win percentage on the Bengals according to PFF. This plays right into the Bengals as they will look to expose the Vikings’ interior offensive line.
At defensive end, the Bengals are going to line up Hendrickson, who had a 15.5% pass rush win percentage last season, against a backup, inexperienced tackle. Sam Hubbard is also a solid starting end himself, and the rookie edge rusher Darius Hodge had a very impressive 19.7% pass rush win percentage during the preseason.
Cincinnati’s defensive line should be pretty good this season and this matches up well against Minnesota’s subpar offensive line. The Bengals pass rush must create some havoc and pressure Cousins, in turn, the Vikings’ offense can become one-dimensional.