In accordance with the Indians chase for the Wild Card race today we look at a couple “Wild Cards” in the Browns Vs. Bengals game coming up tomorrow. In many games the stars make their mark but its a under the radar player that is the turning point in the game. So you will not find Andy Dalton, AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham, Josh Gordon or Jordan Cameron here.
The little second round back has the speed, quickness and receiving skills to make a huge impact on this game, especially in the passing game. The Browns put an emphasis on attacking the quarterback. In Ray Horton’s zone blitz schemes a back could slip out and be open as linebackers are rushing the passer and defensive linemen are dropping into coverage. The Browns also have AJ Green to worry about and generally will double cover him, even with star CB Joe Haden shadowing him. This attention will allow Bernard to block in initial pass protection and release into the flat. Bernard quickness makes his release difficult for bigger defenders to react to. Bernard could use similar skills on delays and outside runs to provide balance to the Bengals
The Bengals most likely be without their top 3 CBs leaving Adam Jones as the #1 corner. With Josh Gordon showing he was back strong last week and Jordan Cameron staring in the first 3 weeks the Bengals will have to shift coverage towards those two in the secondary. This could leave big openings for the other receivers. Bess, the other starter, is most likely to take advantage of this. Bess is a solid veteran who runs great routes and has close quarters quickness. Greg Little and Travis Benjamin, who haven’t been impactful at all so far this year, could break out as well.
To label a first round pick as a wild card speaks to the talent on the Bengals offense. With Green and Gresham Eifert could see single coverage that he could take advantage of, similar to Bess above. Eifert’s height and athleticism makes him a mismatch for most/all DBs and LBs. Eifert hasn’t had a big impact so far, based on stats, but could breakout here.
The Browns’ running game has struggled all year. Last week, after trading Trent Richardson, the backfield by committee was less then impressive. McGahee, who had only 2 days to practice, was particularly bad. Expect a bigger game from the long term vet. While he won’t break long runs like Bernard is capable, McGahee has experience to find cut back lanes and to get extra yards in tough running situations. McGahee’s blocking will also be helpful against the Bengals great front 7.