The Jacksonville Jaguars will be hosting their old AFC Central rival in the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and will celebrate with teal uniforms for the first time in years. To get us ready for the game we sat down with Scott Schulze over at Cincy Jungle.
1. Your run game has never really gotten going and Joe Mixon is running for less than three yards a carry. What's the problem?
The problem, and this is going to sound like a broken record in my answers, is the offensive line. Mixon, as well as Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, get very poor run blocking, and are often stuffed for no gain or a loss in the backfield, because the line is struggling to hold their own, or create any sort of running lanes. Watching Mixon run, he is a very exciting, elusive runner, who is able to create on his own, which he has needed to do with the lack of blocking. But his yards per carry average has suffered due to the complete lack of anything resembling blocking in front of him.
2. How's the Bengals offensive line? We're leading the league in sacks currently — do you think that success continues into Sunday?
The Bengals offensive line currently rates somewhere between bad and awful. They had two really good offensive linemen last year with left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler, and the Bengals let both of them walk in free agency. The rest of the line struggled last season, and are back at it again this season. The Bengals center usually rates as one of the worst in the league and has made a career of making opposing defensive tackles look like they belong in Canton, while they are rotating three tackles each game, hoping to find a pair of them who can provide at least nominal blocking for Andy Dalton.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dalton sacked frequently, especially if the Jaguars get any sort of lead, as the Bengals are prone to abandon the run and let their quarterback get pounded if they fall behind. For example, in the Bengals game against the Steelers, they fell behind by 9 points early in the third quarter, and proceeded to call only one run in the final 25 minutes of the game.
3. If you were an opposing offensive and defensive coordinator, how would you attack the Bengals?
The Jaguars pass rushers should be good enough to get past the Bengals offensive line, and your front four should be able to get to Dalton frequently enough to keep the passing game in check. Dalton will rarely create plays on his own when pressured, but will often just wait for the sack or throw the ball out of bounds. So I’d just make sure to keep A.J. Green doubled and keep the linebackers trained on whichever running back we have in the backfield.
Defensively, the Bengals have been a top 10 unit in six of the past seven seasons, and are on that pace again this year. They are top 10 unit in points per game, and sacks per game, and a top 5 group in yards allowed per game. The two games where the Bengals defense has struggled this year have been road games against teams with good quarterbacks (at Green Bay and at Pittsburgh). So if I were an opposing offensive coordinator, I’d make sure I get the game at home, and have a good Quarterback. I figure Jacksonville will have half of that on Sunday, so they already have that going for them.
Additionally, I’d make sure to double team Geno Atkins all the time. His multiple first-team All Pro awards speak volumes for his presence as the league’s premier 3-technique defensive tackle. The Bengals have a pretty solid defensive unit at all areas, but the offense does them no favors with a -10 turnover margin and continually putting them on the field.
4. Is there a Jaguars player other than Leonard Fournette that you'd say, "If the Bengals don't stop him, we're in trouble"?
I don’t have so much one person, as I do one position -- the Jaguars edge rushers. Fowler, Campbell and Ngakoue could all wreak havoc on the Bengals struggling offensive line. The Bengals don’t have anybody on their roster who is an NFL left tackle, and seem to give up a lot of pressure from all areas of the offensive line.
5. What's gonna happen on Sunday? Will the Jaguars be able to get a win? Will the Bengals surprise us?
I think whoever can take an early lead will win this game. If the Jaguars can build an early lead, the Bengals will likely abandon the run, which plays into the Jaguars defensive strength of pass rushing the quarterback. In six of their seven game, the Bengals have only scored a total of two offensive touchdowns after halftime. So if the Jaguars can build an early lead, the Jaguars should win the game. But if the Bengals can get an early lead, I think the Bengals could surprise the Jaguars.
If they can get the Jaguars to play from behind and rely on Blake Bortles, I like their ability to get to him and limit the passing game. If it’s close at halftime, I’d lean towards the Jaguars, since the Bengals head coach doesn’t believe in halftime adjustments. Unless the Bengals come out hot on offense and build a two score lead in the first half, things probably won’t bode well for them, so I’d probably pick the Jaguars to win.