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Rudi vs. Jags rush defense


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Burning Questions for Week 5

Are the Cincinnati Bengals able to keep their winning streak alive against the strongest opponent it has faced to date in Jacksonville?

Regardless of the dubious quality of their previous opponents, the Bengals merit a great deal of respect for their 4-0 start. They have displayed a variety of strengths, from first-rate quarterbacking by Carson Palmer to a smothering, big-play generating defense.

The Bengals also have shown that they can run the ball effectively, although even more important than the yards that Rudi Johnson generates with his legs is the fact that Cincinnati's coaches stay committed to the running game. The Bengals lead the NFL in time of possession, which allows them to control the clock and wear down opposing defenses. Johnson's running also helps make Palmer's play-action passing more effective.

It used to be a given that the Jaguars would shut down the run, but Denver had 188 yards on the ground in Week 4, with Mike Anderson too often powering through the middle of the line -- supposedly the strongest area of the Jaguars. The Bengals are weaker on their offensive line after losing both centers, Rich Braham and Larry Moore, to knee injuries. Consequently, instead of challenging tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson head on, look for them to widen their running game and run toward ends Reggie Hayward and Paul Spicer, who are better at rushing the passer than stopping the run. Chris Perry, Cincinnati's other running back, also is likely to occasionally work as a receiver out of the slot, thus forcing Jacksonville to move a linebacker away from the line and into coverage and providing Johnson more room to run.

The Jaguars have been bothered by injuries and inconsistency on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Byron Leftwich will be in for a long day against the Bengals pass rush if Fred Taylor again disappears, as he did in Week 4 against Denver.

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I don't expect Rudi to have a big game, despite Jacksonville's poor statistics against the run. Whatever the center situation ends up being, we will probably struggle containing Henderson and Stroud, but Brat will continuously pound the ball at them early on (and rightly so). If Rudi can manage 45 yards or so in the first half, and capitalize on a worn down defense later, this should be a win.

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The more the Bengals open the field up early with pass, the better the game Rudi will have on the ground.

Rudi as a receiver is no threat other than a wide screen but he pass blocks well and JJ makes for a good target out of the I. Schobel should get some catches this game to help move the chains.

If Ghiaciuc is gonna be the center, the Bengals would be better off coming out pass to let him get his feet under him first than throw him right away into runblocking against the Jags DTs.

Gunsling it early and often.

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