When the Denver Broncos visit the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday, they will face a Defense that is stout at Defensive Tackle, but young in the secondary. The Bengals lead the AFC in sacks with 23, despite having last week off.
Cincinnati’s Defense is ranked 25th in Points against (26.7), 21st in Total yards (357.1), 16th against the Pass (233.1 yds) and 22nd against the Run (124.o). The Broncos Offense is 4th in Points (29.1), 3rd in Total yards (405.3), 4th in Passing (292.9) and 14th in Rushing (112.4). Pro Football Focus ranks the Bengals 21st against the Run, 12th in Rushing the Passer and 20th in Pass Coverage. Football Outsiders ranks the Cincy Defense at 28th across the board. Just by looking at that, I’d say the Broncos will win by passing a little more than running. But then, that is the way of things when you possess a Quarterback along the lines of Peyton Manning.
The Bengals employ a 4-3 front on the Defensive Line. The starters from left to right are LDE Carlos Dunlap (10 TKL, 1 SK, 7 QB Hits and 10 Hurries), LDT Domata Peko (26 TKL, 1 SK, 1 QB Hit, 1 Hurry and 1 Batted Pass), RDT Geno Atkins (22 TKL, 7 SK, 3 QB Hits, 17 Hurries and 1 Batted Pass) and Michael Johnson (24 TKL, 7 SKs, 6 QB Hits, 11 Hurries and 1 Batted Pass).
According to Pro Football Focus, Atkins and Johnson are the run stoppers, while Atkins and Dunlap grade out as the best pass rushers for the Bengals. Though Carlos Dunlap is listed as the starter, Robert Geathers (22 TKL, 2 Sks, 4 QB Hits and 7 Hurries) has almost twice as many snaps at Left DE.
Rookie RDT Devon Still (129 snaps, 9 TKl, 1 SK, 1 QB Hit, 3 Hurries and 1 FF) has been in the rotation and had good outings against the Browns and Steelers in their previous 2 games. Rookie LDT Brandon Thompson (23 snaps, 1 TKL and 1 Hurry) hasn’t seen the field much.
Adding to their Sack total might be difficult for Cincinnati this week. Denver is 4th in the NFL in fewest Sacks allowed (10).
From left to right, Cincinnati’s starting Linebackers are Manny Lawson (22 TKL, 1 SK, 1 Hurry, 1 PBU), Rey Maualuga (58 TKL, 2 QB Hits, 3 Hurries, 1 PBU) and Rookie Vontaze Burflict (48 TKL, 1 SK, 1 QB Hit, 1 Batted Pass, 1 PBU and 1 FR).
In coverage, Lawson has been thrown at 14 times, surrendering 10 catches (71.4%), Maualuga has been thrown at 31 times, surrendering 28 catches (90.3%) and Burfict has been thrown at 25 times, surrendering 20 catches (80%) and 3 Touchdowns.
Rey Maualuga leads the Bengals in Tackles, but also in Missed Tackles. In fact, PFF grades him as the worst defender on the team. Vontaze Burflict is among the leading Tacklers. Not bad for a College Free Agent.
The Bengals Secondary is still not settled after 8 Weeks. Nate Clements and Leon Hall are listed as the starting Corners, but Terence Newman and Adam Jones have seen plenty of work as well. Word out of Cincy is that Rookie Dre' Kirkpatrick is finally healthy and will see some action on Sunday, probably in Nickel packages. They should get plenty of work chasing Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Brandon Stokley this Sunday.
Terence Newman (40 TKL, 2 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR) has been thrown at 40 times, surrendering 25 catches (62.5%) and 1 Touchdown. Nate Clements (36 TKL, 2 PBU, 1 FF) has been losing snaps to Newman. He's been thrown at 17 times, surrendering 11 catches (64.7%).
Leon Hall (17 TKL, 6 PBU, 1 Hurry) has been thrown at 24 times, surrendering 15 catches (62.5%) and 1 Touchdown. Adam Jones, who no longer goes by Pac-Man (11 TKL, 1 PBU, 1 Hurry) has been thrown at 19 times, surrendering 11 catches (57.9%) and a Touchdown.
5th round pick CB Shaun Prater, went on Injured Reserve in August with a knee injury and CFA WR-turned-CB Taveon Rogers also went on the IR with a shoulder injury on the same day as Prater.
This is where the Bengals secondary is hurting. Starting Free Safety Reggie Nelson (54 TKL, 1 QB Hit, 2 PBU, 1 FF) had to move over to the Strong Safety position in Week 3 to stabilize the Run Defense. He has been thrown at 15 times, surrendering 11 catches and a Touchdown. Taylor Mays (137 snaps, 9 TKL) has seen sporadic action and is the main reason for Nelson's move. He has surrendered 2 catches, including 1 for a Touchdown, in 3 chances. Chris Crocker (4 TKL, 2 INTs) hasn’t played much after being re-signed in late September, but leads the team in Interceptions. They brought Crocker back because the Bengals were leading the league in Yards After Catch Surrendered. Jeromy Miles (85 snaps, 14 TKL, 1 QB Hit, 1 Hurry) has allowed 2 catches and a Touchdown in as many chances and 5th rounder George Iloka (2 TKL) has yet to make an impact.
I fully expect the Broncos to test the Defensive Tackles by running Willis McGahee right at them early. If that measure fails, running outside should be productive. The Bengal Linebackers miss too many Tackles or get lost in the wash. Of course, their secondary is in a sad state as well. Peyton Manning will take what they give him and unless the Bengal Defense shows up, Manning will have his way with them.
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