Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

GAME PLAN: Cincinnati will face a different defensive formation this time around. When Cincinnati posted a 24-23 win in Week 8, it faced a hybrid 3-4 defense. This time around, the Colts will present a 4-3 Tampa-2 scheme, which could pose problems for developing the desired mix between the run and the pass, especially if the revamped offensive line falters. The Bengals will also be facing Andrew Luck this time around as opposed to Jacoby Brissett, whom they sacked four times.

–Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Bengals CB William Jackson III. Jackson led all NFL corners in catch percentage last season. In last season’s game, Hilton was targeted seven times and wound up with 15 yards on two catches.

–Colts CB Quincy Wilson vs. Bengals WR A.J. Green. Green has been a consistent receiver for his entire career, though he was limited to three catches on 27 yards in last season’s matchup on a day when he was targeted eight times. Wilson is projected to be the Colts’ top corner though he dealt with a hand injury late in preseason.

-Colts G Quenton Nelson vs. Bengals DT Geno Atkins. Atkins’ contract situation is behind him heading into Week 1 and he remains among the top interior defenders in the league. Atkins recorded four tackles along with one sack last season vs. the Colts. Nelson has been as good as anticipated since being drafted out of Notre Dame, but Atkins may prove too difficult of a task.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter — Andy Dalton. Backup — Jeff Driskel.

Dalton enters his seventh season and has been very durable missing only three games. Dalton is hoping to lead the Bengals to a significantly more productive season while playing behind a reformed offensive line, which was among the league’s worst units in the last two seasons.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter – Joe Mixon. Backups – Giovani Bernard, Mark Walton, Tra Carson.

Cincinnati’s run game ranked 31st with 2,046 yards and 28th with 13 touchdowns. Mixon led the Bengals with 626 rushing yards while starting seven games and he’s the main option after Jeremy Hill joined the New England Patriots. A healthy Bernard would help as well. Bernard played in every game last season after suffering an ACL injury late in 2016. Bernard did not appear 100 percent and recorded 458 yards but enters Week 1 fully healthy.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Tyler Eifert. Backups — Tyler Kroft, Mason Schreck, C.J. Uzomah.

Eifert was a Pro Bowler in 2015 after scoring 13 touchdowns, but injuries limited him to 10 games in the last two seasons and he has missed 40 games in his career. Cincinnati brought him back on a one-year deal, but Eifert is less than 100 percent while coping with a balky back. The good news for the Bengals is Kroft did not disappoint last season by totaling 42 receptions for 404 yards and seven touchdowns. The seven TDs were sixth among tight ends and his 42 catches ranked him 21st at the position.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd. Backups – John Ross, Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, Tate Auden.

Green remains effective after totaling over 1,000 yards for the sixth time in seven seasons. He turned 30 during training camp and while others get big contracts, he is focused on rebounding from an inconsistent season. There were uncharacteristic drops, the fight with Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey, who also recently criticized Green. It is up to new receivers coach Bob Bicknell to bring him back to normal and possibly get him to be an All-Pro for the first time in his career. The numbers don’t lie concerning Dalton’s long passes. Green tied for the fewest receptions of at least 25 yards in his career by hauling in only six. The Bengals hope former ninth overall pick John Ross is more productive after failing to record a catch last season and especially after cutting Brandon LaFell early in training camp.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – LT Cordy Glenn, LG Clint Boling, C Billy Price, RG Trey Hopkins, RT Bobby Hart. Backups – T Jake Fisher, T Cedric Ogbuehi, C/G Alex Redmond, G Christian Westerman.

This unit is among the reasons for Cincinnati’s stark decrease offensively. The group has allowed 80 sacks in the last two seasons, resulting in bottom-10 finishes in various major offensive categories. The Bengals hope those things can be remedied by acquiring Glenn from Buffalo and using their first-round pick on Price, who struggled with snap counts early in training camp.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – DE Carlos Dunlap, NT Andrew Billings, DT Geno Atkins, DE Jordan Willis. Backups – DE Sam Hubbard, DE Carl Lawson, DT Ryan Glasgow, DT Josh Tupou, DE Michael Johnson.

Dunlap and Atkins are among the best at their positions and enter the season after getting contractual situations resolved Atkins has recorded 29 of his 61 career sacks in the last three seasons. Dunlap recorded a career-high 13.5 sacks in 2015 but finished with 7.5 last season.

LINEBACKERS: Starters – OLB Nick Vigil, MLB Preston Brown, OLB Vontaze Burfict (SUS). Backups – OLB Jordan Evans, OLB Malik Jefferson, MLB Hardy Nickerson, OLB Vincent Rey.

The Bengals will commence the season without Burfict, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Cincinnati has done decently without him at times by going 16-12 in the games he’s missed. The Bengals are hoping starters Vigil and Brown can compensate with effective run-stopping on a unit that was among the worst in this area last season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters – CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB William Jackson III, S Shawn Williams, S Jessie Bates. Backups – CB Darqueze Dennard, S Clayton Fejedelem, CB Tony McRae, S Brandon Wilson, CB Darius Phillips, CB Davontae Harris (IR/could return later in season).

Jackson’s star is on the rise and increased focus in opponents’ pregame preparation. Of course, as his reputation grows for being a shutdown corner, so does the reluctance of opposing quarterbacks to throw his way. That places the onus on Kirkpatrick and safeties Williams and Bates, who emerged as a starter by playing effectively in preseason. Improved play also includes improving their ability to generate turnovers, something they struggled immensely with and has been a focus in offseason workouts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Randy Bullock, P Kevin Huber, LS Clark Harris, PR/KR Alex Erickson.

Statistically, Bullock was productive, finishing 18-of-20 on field-goal attempts and 31-of-33 on extra points. Only five of those kicks were from beyond 40 yards and the Bengals are not getting complacent in the kicking game. He beat out Jonathan Brown to win the job, which was expected at the outset of training camp.

PRACTICE SQUAD: DT Andrew Brown, TE Moritz Boehringer RB Quinton Flowers, TE Jordan Franks, CB C.J. Goodwin, QB Christian Hackenberg, C Brad Lundblade, T Kent Perkins, CB KeiVarae Russell, WR Kermit Whitfield, LB Chris Worley.