The Miami Dolphins are flying high with a 3-0 start. Sitting at 1-2, the Cincinnati Bengals need several people to step up if they are going to get the win. Last week, I said that both Devin Asiasi and Trey Hendrickson needed to have huge games, and guess what? They both did!
So, who will it be this week?
I'm going with Joseph Ossai, Chris Evans, and Joe Mixon needing to have stand-out games on Thursday in order for the Bengals to win this game.
Breakout game from Joseph Ossai is needed for Bengals to win
What a game Trey Hendrickson had against the New York Jets and perhaps the biggest beneficiary of his performance will be Joseph Ossai. With the Dolphins now forced to concentrate on Hendrickson, that should leave other defenders with favorable matchups.
Sunday against the Jets, Ossai saw the most action of his season, playing 51% of defensive snaps. However, against the Cowboys, he took 13% of the snaps, mainly from the defensive tackle position. Ossai playing defensive tackle is a bit of a surprise because he was primarily a linebacker-defensive end hybrid while at Texas.
But the Bengals should use him in that capacity once again against the Dolphins. Ossai being lined up against Liam Eichenberg should be an advantage for the Bengals' pass rusher. Eichenberg is not very good and is the weak link of the Miami Dolphins' offensive line so whoever gets the call against him in passing situations should eat.
The best way to attack Eichenberg is with a quicker, edge, defensive tackle hybrid. Ossai and Cam Sample on the inside, like they were against Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, should pay dividends. Also, any loops and stunts that lead to quicker defenders crossing Eichenberg's face should be effective. The Bengals should also consider lining up Hendrickson on the left side of the defensive line forcing Miami to decide which way they want to slide protection.
If the Bengals' offense can get off to another fast start, that would put Miami into obvious passing situations. The defensive line, particularly Ossai, should be able to take advantage of an underwhelming pass protector in Eichenberg.
Side note, this would also be a great game to call up Raymond Johnson III from the practice squad, especially with D.J. Reader reportedly out for some time.
Joe Mixon and Chris Evans need breakout games for Bengals
Apparently, Joe Mixon was dealing with an ankle injury on Sunday. That is part of the reason that Samaje Perine took all the carries as Cincinnati milked the clock in the fourth quarter against New York.
The good news is Mixon appears to be healthy enough to have a breakout performance Thursday night. For the year, he is averaging 2.8 yards a carry. Against the Jets, he had 12 carries for 24 yards for an average of 2.0.
He could use a boost as calls for Perine to play more increase. In contrast to Mixon, Perine averaged 5.2 yards per carry against Gang Green. On the season, Mixon is averaging 2.8 versus Perine’s 4.8 yards per carry.
However, Thursday’s game could be the one when Mixon breaks out but not in the conventional running back sense. Against the Dolphins, Bills running back Devin Singletary recorded nine receptions for 78 yards. Mixon is every bit of the pass-catcher Singletary is when healthy. In all, Buffalo’s running backs accumulated 14 catches for 121 yards.
We also know that Cincinnati has another receiving threat in the backfield in Chris Evans. Sure, Perine scored the first touchdown on a reception from Joe Burrow. However, if the Bengals are going to target a running back in the passing game, we would all feel better if it were Evans or Mixon.
Before he can make plays in the passing game, first Evans needs to get on the field.
Based on Buffalo’s running backs' performances against Miami’s defense, this is a perfect opportunity for Evans to get involved, finally, in the offensive game plan.
Both Mixon and Evans are perceived as more significant pass-catching threats than Perine. Also, both could use a breakout game to jump-start the rushing attack. It may need to start unconventionally, passing to the running backs, leading to a better ground attack.
However it happens, the Bengals should be able to use their running backs to exploit the Dolphins’ defense leading to a breakout game for one of them.
Ossai, Mixon, and Evan should be in an excellent position to make impact plays against the Dolphins. Hopefully, they can make those plays and contribute to a Bengals win.
To paraphrase Steve Rogers, I’m with the Bengals ’til the end of the line. Who Dey?!