Fat off the Bone: Week 2 - Bengals

Last week we took a look at the Raiders and their preference for motion and use of the single tight end in most of their personnel packages.

In order to give the Broncos something they hadn't seen on tape, the Raiders started the game with even more motion and several three-back sets.  It was a sound strategy by Hue Jackson; it took the Broncos several series to adjust.

You should expect to see a wrinkle like this each week from the Broncos' opponents.  They know the Broncos watch their last three to four games and chart formations, packages, and tendencies, just like we are doing.   So they've got to surprise the Broncos, even if only for a drive or two.

This week we take a look at the Bengals.  Unlike the Raiders, it does us absolutely no good to scout any games from last year. The Bengals have a new offensive coordinator with a West Coast philosophy and a different quarterback in rookie Andy Dalton.  Anything we might have learned from last year would have been wasted.

So we've got a one-game sample from which to scout these cats--not preferable, but better than a kick to the family jewels.

Let's see what we can glean.


1. The Bengals like their TE packages.  Here's a personnel breakdown of all 65 of the Bengals' snaps last week:

Personnel Package        Count      Percentage of Total Snaps     
212 (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WR) 14 21.54%
113 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) 29 44.62%
122 (1 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR) 5 7.69%
221 (2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR) 12 18.46%
203 (2 RB, 0 TE, 3 WR) 4 6.15%
230 (2 RB, 3 TE, 0 WR) 1 1.54%
TOTAL 65 100.00%

Unlike the Raiders, the Bengals regularly bring in an extra tight end.   28% of their snaps featured at least two tight ends.  Part of this is due to Jay Gruden's belief in tight ends as part of his West Coast philosophy, but I also believe part of the reason for this strategy was simply that the Bengals wanted to help protect Andy Dalton in his first regular season start.  The game was a tight one, and the Bengals didn't ask Dalton to do too much.   So part of this strategy included the use of more tight ends.  As we'll see in a moment, one of their favorite things to do is feature two running backs out of an I formation and load two tight ends next to one another on the same side.

Keep an on the Bengals' first-round draft pick from 2010, tight end Jermaine Gresham (#84) - he's versatile.  He's such a big dude (6'5, 260 lbs) that he has no problem blocking ends, and yet his quickness allows the Bengals to split him out wide when they show their 113 personnel grouping (which they ran about 45% of the time).  It will be interesting to see how Robert Ayers and Jason Hunter fare against him.  I think he would have given Elvis Dumervil some problems on the edge.  I don't think he'll do quite as well against Hunter though, who was a bright spot against the run last week.

Another critical battle to watch on Sunday will be Bengals fullback Chris Pressley against Joe Mays.  Mays brings a load at 5'11 and 250 lbs., but Pressley goes 5'11 and 254 lbs. himself.  In the game last week, Pressley attacked the B and C gaps with some serious vigor.  High School coaches--actually coaches at all levels--have a fondness for the phrase "lowest man wins."  Pressley gave the Browns' linebackers a lesson in this rule.  Mays had better bring the leather or Cedric Benson is going to chew up a lot of yards. 

2. The Bengals love the I formation.  See for yourself.  Here were their 65 plays by formation:

Personnel Grouping    Formation                           Count      Percentage     
113 Ace - Spread Trips 1 1.54%
212 / 221 I Formation 19 29.23%
212 I-Near 3 4.62%
221 I - Deuce Wing 6 9.23%
113 Shotgun 18 27.69%
122  Ace - Regular 2 3.08%
122 / 113 Ace Trips 11 16.92%
122 Ace - Double Wing 1 1.54%
113 Ace 1 1.54%
212 Shotgun - Max Protect 3 4.62%
  TOTAL 65 100.00%

The game, which the Bengals eventually won 27-17, remained close throughout.  So perhaps this explains why the Bengals featured the I-formation more than the Shotgun.  However, it's safe to say the Bengals are going to give the Broncos a healthy dose of the I.  The Bengals run two forms of the I-formation, depending on which personnel they want in the game.  One features their regular personnel grouping (212). The other is for their 221 personnel grouping when they want to beef things up.  Along with the standard Shotgun, The Bengals run a healthy dose of the Ace Trips formation and a fair amount of the I - Deuce Wing, which is another form of the I.  Here is how it looks visually:

(Note: H = Halfback, F = Fullback, Z = Flanker, Y = Tight End, X = Split End, U = Second Tight End, W = 3rd Wide Receiver)

3.  The Bengals love to run the ball right up Andrew Whitworth's backside.  Of these 65 snaps, 16 of them were run off the left tackle .   You can take this to the bank.  When the Bengals want yardage, they are going to run off left tackle.  In fact, the Bengals have one very specific play in which they line up in an I-formation with two tight ends (the I-Deuce Wing above) to the right.  They then run weakside over Whitworth with the fullback leading the way.  Be aware of this when you see that specific formation.  This would be one area in which, if I were the Bengals, I would break my tendency.  It was very obvious.

Here are a few other quick things to look for in the game:

4. Look for A.J. Green's double move.  Against the Browns, Green beat the Browns twice with double moves.  On one of the plays, the defensive back got away with holding. On the other, the ball was overthrown.  His double move is an interesting one because it's a spin move more than a fake, and looks like he's spinning out of the post for an Alley-Oop in basketball.  With Champ Bailey out, I'm sure the Bengals will go to this play a few times against Andre' Goodman or Cassius Vaughn.

5. The Broncos should consider the Double A-gap blitz.  Center Kyle Cook had some difficulties in his pass protections last week and was easily the poorest performing member of the Bengals' offensive line.  The Broncos had to have seen this.  Dennis Allen should fire up some blitzes right up the middle.

6. Andy Dalton can play.  Sure, Dalton is a rookie, but he played far better than one in his debut last week.  I noticed he regularly went through his progressions, was balanced in the pocket, and was in command of the huddle.  In short, the Broncos aren't going to get a victory just because they are facing a rookie.

7. The Bengals use little pre-snap movement.  I saw pre-snap movement by the Bengals on only three plays in the whole game.  This should come as a welcome development to the Broncos as the Raiders used motion constantly the week before.  This will allow Wesley Woodyard, Von Miller, and Joe Mays to focus on their responsibilities more fully.  If you've ever played linebacker, you know how much motion messes with your head in the few seconds before the snap of the ball.

8. When Brian Leonard is in the game, watch the flat and the screen pass.  Chris Pressley is the fullback who brings pain.  Leonard brings the hands.  If he enters the game, the Broncos' linebackers need to keep an eye on him.  The Bengals snuck him out to the flat for a few big gains.

Bottom Line

Defensively, the Broncos will hold their own.  I expect Brodrick Bunkley will have another good game in the middle.  The Bengals aren't at all that complex offensively, and given that Dalton is a rookie, I believe the Broncos will see a lot of what the Browns got--namely, Cedric Benson off tackle.  The Broncos should play a lot of cover-2 so that the injury to Bailey doesn't burn them and A.J. Green won't get loose for any large gains.  They should also consider playing more 4-3 Over, in which the Mike and Sam will be able to play against the weakside runs the Bengals are likely to show (again, unless they break their tendencies).   On 3rd down, I would consider some A-gap blitzes and stunts.   This sounds counterintuitive, but it plays to the weakness in the Bengals' line.  Von Miller could get in the mix on the delayed blitz as well.

TJ Johnson can be reached through telegraph, ESP, Spanish interpretor, or via email: tjthedudejohnson@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you want to see him mock "the man."  He assumes you are following It’s All Over Fat Man on Facebook and Twitter, but if you are not, that’s nihilistic, man.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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