The Miami Dolphins welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to Sun Life Stadium in the NFL's Week 9 Thursday Night Football kickoff game. To get a better look at Miami's opponent, I turned to the people who know the Bengals the best, the fans who follow them. SB Nation's Cincy Jungle is an amazing site to learn everything you want to know about the Bengals, and whodeyfans (@whodeyfans) was kind enough to sit down and give me a look into the AFC North leaders.
Kevin Nogle (KN): Andy Dalton is having a great first half of the season, and appears to be coming into his own in his third year in the league. Last week, for example, he torched the New York Jets with five touchdown passes and a 125.7 passer rating, already his fourth 100+ passer rating this season. What have you seen from Dalton this year, and is he closing in on the top level of quarterbacks in the league?
whodeyfans (WDF): In the past 3 weeks you could make an argument that no QB in the NFL is playing better than Dalton. 11 touchdowns to 2 picks with a 66% completion percentage. Before that, there were some bumpy roads. The loss to the Browns could largely be attributed to Dalton and the offense not getting it together.
As far as the top level of QB's in the league? His stats says he is there. In his first two years in the NFL he has led the Bengals to back to back playoff appearances. He has a great completion percentage as well as a yard per completion average (over 8). The only stat I care about is the win, and with Dalton the Bengals have been winning much more than they have been losing.
KN: Tyler Eifert was definitely someone a lot of Dolphins fans were watching come the draft, hoping the Dolphins would grab the tight end. Of course, we were not expecting the jump to three overall to get Dion Jordan at that point, and the tight end they did draft, Dion Sims, has been effective when he plays, but how has Eifert looked this year? Should Dolphins fans be worried about him this week?
WDF: I think you always have to worry about Eifert. However, his biggest contribution is the threat he poses. He is another option for a QB that likes to spread the ball around. The Bengals are boasting some of the best receivers / tight end on the field at any time and it causes the defense to thin out to cover all of the options.
Tyler has had some big moments in his first season. He had a huge catch against the Steelers on Monday night football and his touchdown grab against the Lions was over Mathis and was very athletic for a bigger guy.
KN: Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis has been fed the ball 110 times this year, the 14th most carries in the league, but he is 23rd in yards (352 - one spot and nine yards in front of Miami's Lamar Miller) and 36th in yards per attempt (3.2). Meanwhile, Giovani Bernard has 72 carries for 282 yards, a 3.9 yard per carry average. Why haven't Green-Ellis and Bernard had a bigger impact?
WDF: The Bengals have become a passing offense. I would like to see more extended drives with Green-Ellis and Bernard churning out yards, but this is a west coast style offense that favors the quick pass and getting the ball to players to make moves. Giovani Bernards biggest contributions come in space whether he is running the ball or catching a pass. (He is currently on pace to snag the #3 spot all time in Bengals history for reception yards by a running back)
KN: Rey Maualuga sprained his MCL against the Jets, the same injury Miami defensive end Cameron Wake suffered five weeks ago and has been limited on the number of snaps he has taken the last couple of weeks. Maualuga was also diagnosed with a concussion, so it's clear that the Bengals won't have their middle linebacker. How's the rest of the health of the Bengals coming into such a short week?
WDF: Questionable all around. Taylor Mays is a young safety who has been contributing for the Bengals. Maualuga has been having his best year since turning pro and Leon Hall is out for the season. Also dinged up are starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. It is a rough time for a short week and the Bengals could be missing some key players for the game on Thursday.
KN: Marvin Jones has become a standout wide receiver opposite A.J. Green, with Jones catching four of Dalton's five touchdown passes last week. He had a ridiculous +5.7 grade from Pro Football Focus this week, and simply made the Jets' secondary look bad. With Green and Jones on the field, the Bengals appear to have an unstoppable passing attack, one that is seventh in the league in passing yards per game and has Dalton fourth in the league in passing yards. If you could assist Kevin Coyle with designing the defensive playbook to attack his former team, what would you say works, and what doesn't?
WDF: I think they key to slowing the Bengals passing attack is get to Dalton. When he has struggled it can be attributed to poor decision making under pressure. At times he feels pressure before it is really there and seems to lose focus and tuck the ball. This is why the Bengals have worked on getting the ball out quicker and working more screens.
Thanks to whodeyfans for taking the time to give us a look at the Bengals. Make sure you check out my answers to his questions over on Cincy Jungle.
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