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Run Game Stuck in Neutral


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In what I'm sure is a classic case of a blind squirrel finding an acorn, Joe Reedy notices that the Bengals' run game is mediocre at best.

My irony meter exploded when it hit the fourth and fifth sentences of this story:

“It’s not where we want it to be, no question about that,” running backs coach Hue Jackson said. “It’s not where I think we can be. I don’t see what I’m accustomed to seeing.”

Well, Hue, y'know we just aren't that kind of team, amirite? Jackass.

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Well, there's never been a better time for Charles to shut us all up.

That's more what I was getting at with the last comment.

Do something, anything, other than nothing.

Is Chris Pressley a possibility or is he shelved for the year? Other than that, I think they have to try something different like seeing more of Peerman and less of the Law Firm. I think BJGE is a step too slow for anything other than short yardage these days

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I haven't heard anything about Pressley to this point. Maybe someone else has ??

Something else that might work is if Gruden stops calling running plays on the same d*mn down each series.

At least it certainly seems that way.

Oh, I love having Bernard to catch screen passes out of the backfield, but it's the most predictable play they run.

Everyone is so lazy going through the motions of a screen pass to Bernard it's ridiculous.

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I haven't heard anything about Pressley. He is eligible to come off PUP.

Heard Lap mention Orson Charles a couple times yesterday lead-blocking for BJGE. Sounds like he did OK. I was actually pretty happy with the run game yesterday. Like the rest of the offense it was hideous in Q1, something like 8 net yards on 5 attempts, then a combined 99 yards on 21 rushes by Gio and Green-Ellis the rest of the way. That was nearly a 5-yard average against a very good run D.

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Interesting story from the NFP. tl;dr - iffy run game + poor interior o-line play + bad Andy = L

As is the case with most coaching staffs during their bye week, the Cincinnati contingent did a lot of “self scouting” last week, poring over video of the first 11 contests to try to correct some of the Bengals’ inconsistencies of the past three games. Especially the offense, which has sputtered during the 1-2 stretch, and more specifically quarterback Andy Dalton.

The third-year veteran has thrown eight interceptions in the past three outings (versus only five touchdown passes) and has an anemic passer rating of just 55.7 in the three games. Having now suffered four multiple-interception games in 2013, Dalton suddenly has tossed the third most picks in the league (15), behind only Eli Manning (17) and Geno Smith (16). The eight interceptions are the most Dalton has ever thrown in three straight games over the course of his NFL career.

Dalton has taken a fair amount of heat locally – hardly unusual because of the position he plays and the leadership status of the 26-year-old with the youthful Bengals – but what the Cincinnati staff concluded after a week of assessing the club’s offense is that the shortcomings aren’t all of his making. In fact, while the Cincinnati coaches acknowledge that Dalton has been part of the offensive slump, some of the criticism is probably unjustified, even though he’s completed fewer than 50 percent of his attempts the past two contests and been sacked 10 times in three games.

At the heart of the problem: The Bengals, who statistically rank No. 19 in rushing offense, need to run the ball more effectively, particularly on first down. The team has averaged 5.14 yards per first-down rush and, while that is 12th best in the NFL, the coaches are shooting for something better. “More consistency with the run and better production on (first) down,” coach Marvin Lewis said of the goals for the final five games of the season. “Both have been problems.”

There’s been a perception that Dalton has struggled of late because Cincinnati has faced such daunting third-down situations the past three games. And in fact, the average yards-to-make for the Bengals on third down in those games was nearly 7.5 yards. Eighteen times in the three games, an average of six times per game, Cincy confronted third-and-10 or more. Six times, Dalton and the Bengals were looking at third-and-13 or longer. Little wonder Cincinnati converted only 16 of its 53 third-down plays (30.2 percent) against Miami, Baltimore and Cleveland. The Bengals had a decent 42.1 percent conversion ratio (which would rank among the top 10 in the league), by comparison, over the first eight games of the season.

But here’s where Dalton’s deficiencies are a bit overstated: Only two of his eight interceptions over the past three games came on third-down plays.

Instead, Dalton has been an equal-opportunity donor and Cincinnati isn’t “winning” consistently on first down. As a result, he is facing long yards-to-make situations thereafter. The lingering problem has forced coordinator Jay Gruden to probably call more passes than normal and magnified the reality that the Bengals’ line, especially the interior, hasn’t played well. In 11 games, Dalton is on a pace to throw 596 passes in 2013; in his first two seasons, the former TCU standout averaged 522 attempts.

Cincinnati is at its best when Dalton is somewhat insulated, when the Bengals are using all their offensive tools, when the running game is clicking and he is not forced to carry the load as much. Notable is that Cincinnati is just 3-10 in games in which Dalton has thrown 40 or more passes; that includes a 2-3 mark this year. Teams that have scouted Dalton feel that if they can force him backwards a bit in the pocket, his height (6-feet-2) and average arm strength provide them an advantage.

“Give him a ‘clean’ pocket and he’s so much better,” a rival defensive assistant said. “Of course, you can say that about any quarterback, right? But it’s especially true of him. With his delivery and all, he needs some room to throw, and he’s not getting it.”

Opponents have crowded the inside against the pass and the run. The perception in the league is that the Bengals aren’t as physical inside on the line – with left guard Clint Boling, center Kyle Cook and right guard Kevin Zeitler – and so they play Cincy accordingly. They overplay the inside run and, on many passing downs, emphasize pressure up the middle, in Dalton’s face. The quick pressure – which, ironically, was a staple of the Cincinnati defense, before tackle Geno Atkins was lost with a season-ending knee injury – has forced Dalton into some dubious decisions. At 7-4 and in a dramatically diluted AFC North, and with three of their remaining five games at home and two winnable road contests, the Bengals figure to be a playoff team for a third straight season.

But divining a way to avoid a third consecutive one-and-done in the postseason is important to a franchise with the most talent in the division. And determining how to avoid the fate of the past two seasons is part of what drove the Cincinnati staff in its week away from the field. The conclusion, which might be a surprise to some of his detractors, wasn’t simply about fixing the quarterback. It means being smarter and tougher on offense and it will be interesting to see how the Bengals implement those goals in the final five games.

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We've mentioned many times how the interior of the o-line needs to improve.

I know, it's just that I wonder sometimes if I'm not mistaken in my concern about the o-line. Everyone up to and including Reedy has been fond of tossing out PFF's rankings of the o-line (by which the Bengals are among the league's best) as a way to put the heat on Dalton, but I think calling this o-line elite doesn't pass the eye test at all. They aren't horrible but they rarely seem to be able to redirect defenders and give Andy space. And what this piece talks about is what I've seen, a sort of mush rush style pass rush that is less about getting to Dalton and more about hemming him in, blocking his vision and putting up hands to deflect balls. In short, they're seeking to cage him, not sack him, because he struggles trying to throw through the "bars." Thus the o-line stats, which are all based on sacks and pressures, look great, except those aren't defenses' goals against us.

This answers some of the questions being asked, like why not use Eifert to attack the middle of the field? Because he can't see it or hit it unless the interior of the o-line clears some guys out. Why does he throw so many picks? Because to beat this Jay has emphasized getting the ball out quick, which in turn means that if he wasn't perfect in his pre-snap read and if he and his receiver aren't on the same page every time, bad things happen.

TJ is right. Linemen. Gimme.

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