Coming off their first win of the season, in a closely contested contest with the Vikings, the Cleveland Browns host the in state rival Cincinnati Bengals. Today we start with “the big uglies,” offensive lines versus the defensive front 7s. Tomorrow we will follow up with the offensive playmakers and their defenders.
Cleveland Offensive Line versus Cincinnati Front 7
Browns Starting Line from Left to Right: Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Oniel Cousins, Mitchell Swartz
Bengals Front 7 (4-3 Defense): DE Carlos Dunlap, DTs Domata Peko and Geno Atkins, DE Michael Johnson, LBs Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga and James Harrison
The Browns offensive line has struggled mightily this season. While they seemed to perform better in pass protection in Week 3, the quicker release time of Brian Hoyer may have been the primary factor. The Browns have not opened up any running lanes and have often abandoned the run. Against the front 4 of the Bengals running the ball may be difficult, protecting Brian Hoyer even more so. In an attempt to have success expect the Browns to run some draws, counters and screens against a uber talented and aggressive defensive front 7. The Browns have given up 14 sacks already this season while only averaging 71 yards per game on the ground.
The Bengals front 7 was seen as top notch since the middle of last year. Atkins and Peko provide stout run defense while also getting after the passer. Dunlap and Johnson are long armed defensive ends who can rush the passer but also have a knack for knocking passes out of the air. The whole team only has 6 sacks on the year but have 4 INTs and 3 fumble recoveries. Yet the team is ranked 14th against both the run and the pass so far this year, also taking into account their early schedule that included the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers both who have dynamic offenses. Cincinatti is also only giving up the 11th most yards and 12th most points a game. Their defensive front 7 is a huge part of those numbers. Against the Browns expect the team to mostly rush 4 and drop 7 into coverage to confuse Brian Hoyer. The Bengals LBs show the ability to stop the run, make smart delayed blitzes and stay close in coverage.
Advantage: Bengals - The Browns have struggled to run the ball all season. They struggled in pass protection against star players like Cameron Wake and Haloti Ngata. Now they have to face Atkins and the rest of this front 7. Creative play calling, help from backs and tight ends may be the only hope the Browns have to neutralize the Bengals strength in this match-up
Cincinnati Offensive Line versus Cleveland Front 7
Bengals Starting Line from Left to Right: Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling, Kyle Cook, Kevin Zeitler and Andre Smith
Cleveland Front 7 (3-4 Defense): DE Desmond Bryant, NT Phil Taylor, DE Ahtyba Rubin, OLB Paul Kruger, ILBs D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson and OLB Jabaal Sheard
The Bengals are 21st in rushing yards on the young season with the combination of veteran BenJarvis Green-Ellis and rookie speedster Giovani Bernard. Andy Dalton has only been sacked 5 times leading the 11th ranked passing offense in the league. With 1st round picks on the right side of the line and steady, but aging vet Whitworth manning the blindside the Bengals have a solid makeup on this unit. BJGE has been their workhorse with 46 carries but is only averaging 2.8 YPC behind the line, while Bernard has a solid 5 YPC on only 22 touches.
The Browns have hung their hats on their defensive front 7 over the first 3 weeks. They have shut down Lamar Miller and Ray Rice, and bottled Adrian Peterson up to his lowest rushing total of the year. They have totaled 12 sacks and forced and recovered 3 fumbles. They are allowing the 6th fewest yards in the league with the 7th fewest rushing yards given up after facing 3 run heavy offenses. They are also giving up the 2nd lowest YPC of any team in the league. Sheard is nursing a injury that could hold him out but Kruger and rookie Barkevious Mingo have excelled so far this season.
Advantage: Browns - The Browns, with Ray Horton’s creative defense, have shown toughness throughout the season. With the front 7 causing pressure and bottling up the run it will be interesting how the Bengals choose to attack the team. Do they try to stay balanced as Marvin Lewis likes to do or will they put Andy Dalton and his multitude of weapons to use early and often. Expect the trench wars to be one by both defenses, how the offenses respond will be interesting.
So far the match-up is a tie, though the Bengals advantage is much greater then the Browns. Tomorrow we will break down the offensive weapons and their defenders.
Browns fans did I overrate the home team’s defense? Bengals fans how did I underrate your team? Let me know!