Following a miserable performance last Thursday against the Miami Dolphins, The Jacksonville Jaguars look to bounce back this Sunday against a Cincinnati Bengals hungry for its first win.
To help us get a better picture of the 2020 Bengals, we spoke with Patrick Judis of SB Nation’s Cincy Jungle — your premier source for all things Cincinnati Bengals.
Check out our conversation below:
1. Through three games and an 0-2-1 record, what is the general fan consensus on Joe Burrow’s relatively strong performances thus far, and does the future look bright in Cincinnati with him at the helm, or is there any cause for concern?
Patrick: Joe Burrow is really what is keeping most Bengals fans hopes up. He has had rookie moments or times where it is clear he and his receiving group are still getting on the same page, but he has far exceeded expectations expectations for what I thought we’d see from him this early in the season.
He looks his best running an up tempo offense, which really says a lot about him considering the lack of time to prepare for the season. His willingness to throw in tight windows and hit his receivers consistently has just been so refreshing.
The only real concern is whether this offensive line can keep him from getting killed out there.
2. After signing a large contract extension, Joe Mixon has struggled to run the ball, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and failing to rush for more than 70 yards in any one game. Is this an issue with Mixon, the offensive line (which also gave up eight sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles), the play-calling or all of the above? How should a Jacksonville rush defense that ranks toward the middle of the pack best attack the struggling Bengals’ ground game?
Patrick: I would say the only person blameless is Mixon. He is constantly making guys miss in the backfield, breaking tackles and falling forward for extra yards.
The offensive line and scheme haven’t been great. We saw a few instances of them getting creative with motioning players around to create running room, but they still default to trying to run a power running scheme out of a two-tight end set, which just isn’t really possible with this offensive line.
Realistically, we all want to see Mixon used more in the passing game to get him out in open space easier. There have been a few plays where they do this, but they just need to find more ways to get him in those situations.
This offensive line has some good pieces, but you’re only as good as your weakest link.
3. Defensively, the Bengals have been strong against the pass, giving up just 210.7 yards per game (seventh in the NFL). But the team has also been abysmal against the run, giving up 181.7 yards per game on the ground (31st in the NFL). Are you concerned about undrafted running back James Robinson’s sudden emergence in this matchup, or do you expect the Bengals to shore things up in that regard?
Patrick: Defensive tackle Geno Atkins hasn’t played yet this season, and it has shown. Assuming the Bengals don’t change anything else up, I’m very concerned of any team choosing to run the ball against this team.
Now if the Bengals start to give rookie linebacker Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt most of the snaps in that rotation, it could help as they’ve both shown some explosiveness. I still wouldn’t feel confident, though.
4. Are there any key players to look out for on the Bengals who Jaguars fans may not know about?
Patrick: Safety Jessie Bates is going to be a household name as soon as Cincinnati becomes relevant again. He has been all over the field and playing great. He even almost ended last week’s overtime game with a pick, but he actually overran the play. He is just a great center fielder.
5. Is there still confidence from the fanbase in head coach Zac Taylor and his coaching staff, or could the Bengals be looking to make another change by the end of the season?
Patrick: After last week, the number of people calling for Zac Taylor’s job have grown close to a majority. It is hard to defend being 0-10-1 in games decided by one score. It is also hard to defend him not making changes to his staff, specifically Jim Turner’s job as offensive line coach.
Taylor and the Bengals would have to turn things around in a pretty substantial way to quell these desires for change. The only thing saving him right now are the players maintaining their belief in him.
6. How do you see the game playing out on Sunday?
Patrick: The Bengals keep finding new ways to not win close games. Until I witness a change there I have a hard time envisioning anything else.
Jaguars and Gardner Minshew don’t bounce back in a big way, but it is enough to get over the Bengals. Robinson gets over 100 years, Tyler Eifert gets a revenge touchdown and Burrow continues to look outstanding despite the loss.
A huge thank you to Patrick for taking the time to answer my questions. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and for Bengals news, keep up with Cincy Jungle on Twitter as well.