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The Miami Dolphins play the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, looking to bounce back after two straight overtime losses. The Bengals, meanwhile, are tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North lead, and are trying to stay there. As we get ready for this weekend's game, what better wat to get to know the Bengals than to turn to Cincy Jungle?
Our Five Questions series continues today, as we turn to Cincy Jungle, SB Nation's Cincinnati Bengals blog, to get to know the Miami Dolphins' next opponent better. The Dolphins are looking to rebound after two straight tough losses in games that they controlled and should have won. The Bengals, meanwhile, are simply looking to remain atop the AFC North.
Cincy Jungle's managing editor Josh Kirkendall agreed to trade questions with me. Here are his answers to my questions. Look for my answers to his questions later today over on their site.
Kevin Nogle (KN): A.J. Green, the AFC's Offensive Player of the Month and second in the league in receiving yards (behind Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline, cough, cough), has nearly double the targets of anyone else on the Bengals roster. In fact, he is just one target under a combined total of the next two players in targets, Jermaine Gresham and Andrew Hawkins. Is this a sign that the offense runs through Green and if the Dolphins can slow him down, the Bengals will stumble, or is it just the fact that Green has been open that many more times than everyone else?
Josh Kirkendall (JK): Yes and no. When the Bengals offense is looking to generate momentum after a series of bad possessions, they'll move A.J. Green around, using a sequence of hitches and back-shoulder throws. The thing that opposing defenses have been doing, especially lately against the Redskins and Jaguars, is playing A.J. Green in man coverage. Teams typically lean a safety over the top to his side, but Green is too fast, reaching his spot before the safety arrives, usually down the right sidelines. Fortunately the emergence of Andrew Hawkins has forced defenses to account for him as well, already with two 50-yard plus touchdown receptions this season and a higher yard/reception average than Green. It's helping Green with those single-coverage assignments.
KN: Andy Dalton is up nearly 10% in completion rate and up 23 points in passer rating this year. Has Dalton been playing up to the level of his statistics, or is it a matter of playing opponents like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns this year?
JK: Could be a little of both. Andy Dalton is making better reads, has a willingness to concede a play and his weapons are far more reliable than they were last year. Hawkins could be one of the more elusive slot receivers in the NFL and Armon Binns, though targeted infrequently, is a fearless possession receiver. Dalton is noticeably better than he was last season, but it's possible that some of that could be the result of playing not-great secondaries, sure.
KN: Four weeks into the season, every team has players banged up already. Are there any big names who could miss time this week?
JK: Last week the Bengals had four cornerbacks, including starters Leon Hall and Nate Clements out, as well as the team's No. 17 pick cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who hasn't played one snap in the preseason and regular season. And during the team's opening two games, their best edge rusher was out with a knee. That being said we've had two guys sit during practices this week, and one returned on Thursday. If anything the infirmary list is starting to thin out. We only know that Kirkpatrick for sure will be out.
KN: The Dolphins are the number one defense against the rush so far this year, allowing just 56 yards per game rushing. Meanwhile, the Bengals are 13th in the league in rushing yardage at 110 yards per game - but, Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis seems to be having an issue with holding on to the ball this year. What's changed with the once fumble-free Law Firm, and how has the Bengals running game looked early this season?
JK: Running game has been mediocre. Plus BenJarvus Green-Ellis has played the more traditional workhorse in an offense that strives for balance. However Bernard Scott, the team's backup running back that's expected to be a change-of-pace player, has played one game and that one game he lost all of five yards on three combined runs. BJGE did fumble on the goalline last weekend when a helmet crashed into his forearm. He spoke this week about it, so we're expecting a little more job security than what we've seen.
KN: If you were developing the game plan against the Bengals, how would you attack them on offense? On Defense?
JK: Stunt the offensive line on one side for pressure and use your linebackers to carry the zone in the flats, especially on the wide-side, while establishing strong coverage on Jermaine Gresham over the middle. Be very physical with Green off the line but even if you have a safety declaring, he might beat them both. As for your offense, I'd employ more three-step drops and get rid of the football. The Bengals are ranked No. 1 with the most quarterback sacks, but they easily double that amount of pressure, often from Dunlap and Geno Atkins, who is arguably the best pass rushing defensive tackle in the game.
I would really like to say thank you to Josh, and remind you to check out Cincy Jungle later today for my answers to Josh's questions.