The Bengals Are Cool, Run Read-Option on MNF

18 Sep

The coolest new toy on the NFL block is the read-option. I mean, try it. Everyone is totally doing it. All the good teams run the read-option. You can’t get addicted to it on the first read. Trust me.

On Monday night, Cincinnati actually ran a couple read-option plays. I’m not sure if Dalton planned on running if the situation presented itself, but the threat evens the playing field from a numbers standpoint. Here’s the first play:

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* First & 10 early in the first quarter.
* Green-Ellis is a yard behind and to Dalton’s left.

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* Dalton puts the ball into BJGE’s belly and reads the edge rusher (yellow); the blitzing Nickel CB.
* If the CB looks to crash down (blue) and attack the RB, Dalton will pull it back and keep it himself.
* If the CB looks like he’s going after the ball, Dalton will allow BJGE to keep the ball and run.

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* Dalton gives the ball to BJGE and he takes it up field and cuts between the LT & LG.
* Dalton runs left as if he still has the ball to keep the CB’s attention a little longer.

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* Green-Ellis cuts it up field and gains yardage without needing to make a defender miss. That’s the numbers advantage of the read-option. Instead of the RB having (in theory) 9 blockers against 11 defenders, the read-option forces the defense to account for the QB and makes it now 9 blockers vs 10 defenders (The 11th defender is chasing the QB).

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* BJGE finishes the run with authority.

And that’s how you can be cool in the NFL.

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Gio Bernard Is Who We Thought He Was!

17 Sep

I can’t say that I wasn’t a little proud watching Bengals rookie runner Giovani Bernard on Monday night. Those that follow me know that I’ve been thirsty for a real running back for the past few seasons and Bernard was who I pegged after the Bengals’ last playoff loss to the Texans.

Gio Bernard captured my scouting heart the first time I watched him and filled out his grading scale and scouting report. Here’s what I wrote:

“Gio Bernard is blessed with good speed, agility and acceleration to go with an ideal power/balance ratio. His best attribute is everything that makes up the Pre-LOS (line of scrimmage) ability. Think of Arian Foster and his ability to see the hole being created on the backside, yet he strings along the linebacker, presses the hole then violently cuts back into the open field. He’s the best running of this class when it comes to that. He will not be dependent on a good offensive line.”

On Monday night, we got to see what makes Bernard special.

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* First down and Cincinnati comes out in their 12-Personnel (1-RB, 2-TE).
* Eifert is at H-Back to Bernard’s left.
* This is an inside Zone run.

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* As Gio gets the ball, he looks for his running lanes.
* YELLOW – Lawrence Timmons is sliding into that hole and is ready to fill it.
* BLUE – If Gio can string Timmons far enough and keep him in the Yellow, Bernard should be able to cut it up into this lane.
* PURPLE – With the Steelers’ OLB coming from the outside, Gio must maintain his inside run to get the LB to come inside and get picked up by Eifert.

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* Gio presses the Yellow hole and forces Timmons to commit to it; Bernard cuts hard to his left.
* He must now choose between Blue or Purple.

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* The Pittsburgh DE and OLB crash inside and Bernard turns on the jets towards the outside.
* This is all before he even passes the Line of scrimmage.

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* And Bernard finishes by lowering his head and shoulder into the gap between the FS and CB.

But some still had questions about Giovani Bernard’s pass protection and toughness.

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* Ryan Clark (Yellow) vs Gio Bernard (Orange)

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* Gio takes the handoff and makes his way to our left.
* Clark crashes the LOS and looks like he expects Bernard to take the outside (purple) lane.

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* Gio dips behind Andre Smith for a split second and Clark has to slow down.
* Bernard cuts hard back inside behind the blocks of Zeitler and Cook.

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* Again Bernard is eclipsed by an offensive lineman. He has Clark in Oh Crap mode as he now much track around Kyle Cook and catch Gio from behind.

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* Giovani Bernard gets low and pushes the pile into the end zone.
* Ryan Clark (yellow) is left on his butt looking for Bernard.

PASS PROTECTION

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* Pittsburgh will blitz both ILBs in an effort to confuse the rookie RB.

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* The first blitzing ILB is picked up by the big guys up front and that leaves Bernard in a one on one situation with a LB that has 50 lbs. on him.

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* In that scenario, you cut that LB and send him flipping. Gio does just that.

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* Cincinnati is going to block left and allow Lamar Woodley to rush free from the outside.

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* As Woodley shortens his arc to the QB, Bernard must come IN FRONT of Dalton, and then get back outside in time to slow down the Steelers best rusher.

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* Bernard aims for Woodley’s hip/thigh area and clears him for just long enough for Dalton to unload a deep ball.

DECOY

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* Gio flares out into the right flats and Gresham hooks up in a soft spot against zone coverage.

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* Bernard is a receiving weapon for Dalton and has the attention of both Pittsburgh defenders in the area.

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* That’s good for Cincy as Gresham hauls in the pass and rumbles down field for a big gain.

Split Screen: Green-Ellis and Gio Bernard

9 Sep

With veteran back BenJarvus Green-Ellis getting 64% of the snaps and rookie Giovani Bernard seeing the other 36% in Chicago, many fans were left asking “WHY?!”.

Cincinnati is a heavy Zone running team. They’re not at the level of Washington or Houston in execution, but the Bengals need to find their identity in the backfield before they can flourish close to the levels of those teams.

Here, we’re going to look at two very similar running plays from Sundays game. One featuring “The Law Firm” and the other showing the potential of a rookie.

Green-Ellis

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* We have a 1st and 10 from Chicago’s 32-yard line.
* Cincinnati lines up in their (now usual) 12-personnel with a WR on each side and both TE on the right.

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* The run is designed to go left with Boling and Zeitler taking on LBs on the second level.
* Kyle Cook gets walked into the backfield by Stephen Paea and Anthony Collins tries pushing Peppers aside with one arm (why?).
* As BJGE gets the ball, he’ll either need to cut it back or bounce it outside because the pressure is in his face already.

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* Green-Ellis takes a few stutter-steps and then plows into Paea and Peppers.

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* Sure, it takes four Bears to stop him and the Green-Ellis never actually got tackled, but this play shows his inability to create yardage when things go wrong. He’s completely dependant on the offensive line’s success on every run.

Gio Bernard

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* Second down and two to go from Cincinnati’s 28-yard line.
* Bengals substitute Tyler Eifert at TE with Orson Charles at H-back.

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* Similar play to the one above. Run is designed to go left.
* Kyle Cook is again getting walked backwards.
* Gio Bernard is now faced with the same snap-decision as BJGE.

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* Gio plants his left foot and cuts hard back towards the inside and Cook rides his block towards the outside.

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* Gio now has the choice between following Orson Charles up the middle or bouncing it outside where there’s more room to run.
* As Charles starts losing his block (and eventually flagged), Gio again plants his foot and bounces it outside.

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* Bernard finds help in the form of Andre Smith and A.J. Green protecting the ally. He goes full speed and tries to split the safeties.

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* Gio doesn’t accomplish the final feat in a great run, but he finishes by lowering his shoulder in bowling over both defenders for an extra yard or two.

* The vision and agility are evident in Bernard’s game. I felt like he was the best running back prospect I’ve seen BEFORE the line of scrimmage and this is another example. He doesn’t need all five lineman to win on every play because he can create yardage on his own.

Bengals at Bears – Plays of Interest: The First Interception

9 Sep

This was Cincinnati’s second snap of the game. The first play was a play-action rollout and 3-yard completion to Tyler Eifert.
The next play started similarly, but had a much harsher result.

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* Bengals come out in 12-personnel (1-RB, 2-TE) with a WR on each side.
* AJ Green is going to run a quick slant after 3-steps.

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* Charles is only about 5-yards off in coverage, but his eyes are firmly locked on Andy Dalton.

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* The Bengals start the play looking like a stretch run to the left.
* Important to note that Dalton’s eyes are not looking at the defense. He’s trusting that Green will get inside and beat Tillman for a quick catch.

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* Dalton plants the right foot and snaps his head around. He isn’t wasting time and once he’s set, he’s throwing to AJ Green in the open area (light blue).

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* With Tillman looking into the backfield, he sees Dalton planting and setting to throw before Green even starts to cut inside. He’s got the jump on the inside.

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* Obviously Tillman gets inside position and hauls in the interception.
* A.J. Green CANNOT, under ANY circumstances, let the defender inside.

Andy Dalton is trusting his WR to be at a spot and able to catch the ball. This is a bang-bang play and unfortunately the needed intensity wasn’t there from A.J. Green. On a tremendous receiving day for Green, he was at fault for both of his Quarterback’s interceptions.

Bengals at Bears Plays of Interest: 3rd and 17

9 Sep

This was the Bengals first opportunity to experiment with their 3-Safety Nickel package with Taylor Mays in at Linebacker. Chicago has great field position after an interception, but they face 3rd & 17 and survive an exotic Mike Zimmer blitz package.

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* Cincinnati shows a single-high safety (Iloka) and Man-Coverage underneath.
* Chicago has 3-WRs and 1-TE split out.

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* Just before the snap, George Iloka starts sprinting and aligns over Reggie Nelson in the slot.
* This alignment almost always means the DB closest to the LOS (Nelson) is blitzing.

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* At the same time, Leon Hall is dropping out of his slot coverage and rotating back as a Safety. He and Iloka are now creating a Cover-2 look.
* Both LBs are showing blitz in the A-Gap in an effort to get the Chicago offensive line to block inwards-out. So the LBs be accounted for first in blitz pickup.
* Nelson (red) would then get a free rush from the outside.

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* At the snap, both Bengals LBs (Mays & Burfict) drop back into coverage with attention placed on Chicago’s two slot targets (Bennet & Marshall).
* With Chicago blocking the inside first, this leaves Dunlap unblocked.

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* Matt Forte comes across the formation and cut-blocks Dunlap.
* Watch the ANTICIPATION by Jay Cutler. With Burfict’s eyes firmly placed on Brandon Marshall, Cutler can throw the ball right at him without the Bengals LB knowing it.
*With both safeties (Iloka & Hall) playing deep and to the boundary, there’s a big gap down the seam. The open area where Cutler must place the ball is marked in light blue.

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*Perfect pass and catch from Cutler to Brandon Marshall. They convert on 3rd and 17.

This is a scenario we saw for too often on Sunday. Marshall was bracketed by a Safety and Linebacker and he kept converting and moving the chains.

Breaking Down A Bengals Play: Two TE Seam

4 Sep

While reviewing Cincinnati’s preseason games for the last time, there was a play I noticed being run in every game. It wasn’t always successful, but you could tell they were working on the concept while adding a new wrinkle each time.
I chose the week 2 play against the Titans because it allowed for the best footage to illustrate this design.

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* The Bengals were using 12-personnel (1RB, 2TE) for the majority of this drive as they leaned on the run game.
* This is a balanced formation with both Tight Ends (orange) on the LOS and the Bengals QB in shotgun.

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* Both of the WRs will run 9-routes with outside releases. This is to carry the CBs to the outside and keep both safeties deep.
* With each of the Titans safeties outside of the hash marks and 13+ yards down field, this is an easy pre-snap read for John Skelton. We’re probably looking at a Cover-2 variation.
* The Bengals TEs will be asked to get an outside release and really flare out and “bend” their vertical route just inside the numbers.

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* The Bengals will show run by pulling their LG (red) to the right (your left) and blocking down with the remaining OL.
* The pull, combined with the play-action fake to the RB will help freeze the Titans LBs.

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* You can see both of Tennessee’s OLBs run up to take on their run responsibilities.
* This will leave a huge window (pink) for both TEs and Skelton to throw to.

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* This is as the Bengals’ QB is about to throw. You can see the wide open gap. This is a very quick play from snap to pass and that keeps the LBs from reacting and getting back into coverage.

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* Finally, here’s the catch by Tyler Eifert and you can see just how wide open he is.

After seeing this play run in each preseason game and in some training camp videos/highlights from around the web, I think this is a concept we can expect to see plenty in 2013. With the two-TE set figured to be featured in Cincinnati and A.J. Green forcing a safety deep, look for that same gap to be available after play-action. This also allows Andy Dalton to get into shotgun — where I think he’s best — and Giovani Bernard into the ballgame — because they’ll use him in most passing/shotgun situations.

I especially think this play with be successful against the Chicago Bears and their Cover-2 in week 1.

Waiver Wire Potential Pickups

1 Sep

The Bengals have announced their 53-man roster, but in reality, the roster will never be finalized. There are injuries, waiver claims, free agent signings and unforeseen development of players.

Currently, the Bengals are looking for a long, rangy, athletic linebacker that can replace the injured Emmanuel Lamur. If there were a player with all of Lamur’s qualities, he’s probably already on a 53-man roster. Instead, the team will need to look for a diamond in the rough; somebody with the physical talents that they can quickly mold.

I’ve reviewed the NFL’s transaction list from the past two days and narrowed my Interest List to five players that could potentially help the Bengals.

1. Bryan ScottBuffalo Bills – 32 years old – 10 years experience – 6’1″ – 220 lbs
Scott has played Safety and Linebacker for the Bills, but his role was as their Nickel LB. He’s a bit of a tweener and doesn’t run as well as he used to. Scott is a team-first player that can help on special teams also. He may allow the Bengals to release a safety instead of a LB because he can play there in emergency. Scott is the only player on this list that wouldn’t need to be claimed. He is a free agent.

2. Terrell ManningPackers – 23 years old – 2nd NFL year (5th round, 2012) – 6’2″ – 237 lbs
Manning is still young enough to offer some upside. He was my 132nd overall player in last year’s draft. He ran a respectable 4.62 at the NFL combine and showed speed at NC State. He’s a weak-side LB and potentially a Nickel backer.

3. Brandon MarshallJaguars – 23 years old – 2nd NFL year (5th round, 2012) – 6’1″ – 238 lbs
Marshall lost the battle for the Jaguars final LB spot, but he offers athleticism, speed and special teams. At Nevada, he was known as a “very hungry” player that did everything right. I have to think there’s still something here and the Bengals desperately need the athleticism Marshall offers.

4. James Michael-JohnsonBrowns – 24 years old – 2nd NFL season (4th round, 2012) – 6’1″ – 238 lbs
JMJ was my 108th ranked draft prospect in 2012, but he hasn’t tapped that potential in Cleveland. He’s more of an MLB, but JMJ shows some decent straight line speed (4.6 forty).

5. Winston Guy (S)Seahawks – 23 years old – 2nd NFL season (6th round, 2012) – 6’1″ – 220 lbs
Like the first player I listed, Guy may be too big for safety in the NFL. Although the Bengals may also like him for that reason, Winston Guy’s future in the NFL may be as a nickel LB. Seattle had plans of using him in a three-safety Dime package and the Bengals would be wise to get another DB on the field in place of a LB. Guy, like the veteran Scott, could kill two birds with one stone (LB/S).