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Dolphins at Bengals Preview: Bill Lazor’s growth, Vontaze Burfict’s return, and the right side of the offensive line

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals are a few hours away from their Week 5 kickoff with both teams looking to stay atop their respective divisions. The Bengals are currently 3-1 and leading the AFC North, tied with the Baltimore Ravens, while the Dolphins are also 3-1, leading the AFC East by a half-game following the New England Patriots win on Thursday night.

As we approach the 1pm ET kickoff, it is time to get to know the Bengals a little better. I got a chance to speak with Patrick Judis from Cincy Jungle to learn move about the Bengals. You can check out my answers to his questions about the Dolphins here.

1. Former Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was promoted from Cincinnati quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator during the season last year. Dolphins fans remember Lazor coming to the team with high expectations about turning the team into an explosive offense, only to see stagnation and a lack of scoring. Now, with a full offseason to implement his system in Cincinnati, what have you seen from Lazor’s offense this year and, at 3-1, is it safe to assume it is working?

Bill Lazor has been fantastic. You could see him taking over last season have an impact. The Bengals’ offense would consistently start off hot with these innovative looking plays, but when he had to fall back on the playbook he was forced to use is when the Bengals struggled.

Cincinnati was in desperate need of a new start. The last complete offensive overhaul was when Jay Gruden took over in 2011. If you run the same basic concepts for that long the NFL takes notice of trends. Lazor has been a breath of fresh air. The entire offense raved about him during the offseason, and the results speak for themselves. Andy Dalton is tied for second with 11 passing touchdowns, A.J. Green is second in the NFL with five touchdowns and before Joe Mixon got hurt he was on of the leading rushers in the NFL after two weeks.

2. Miami’s pass rush has been a work in progress this season, with players getting through the offensive line, though they are not getting to the quarterback nearly as much as they would like or as much as we expected, only recording six sacks so far this year, 29th in the league. Cincinnati struggled with their offensive line last year, but added Cordy Glenn and Billy Price this year to be upgrades to the line - though Price is sidelined with an injury right now. How is the offensive line playing, and should Miami be able to get to Andy Dalton?

The left side of the offensive line seems to be solid. Cordy Glenn has shown signs of being human, but it is nothing worth complaining about. Trey Hopkins has actually done a pretty good job of replacing Billy Price at center as well. However, the right side of the line is pretty inconsistent (that is as nicely as I can say it). I may or may not have a drinking game where I take a drink every time Bobby Hart just doesn’t block someone at right tackle. Right guard Alex Redmond also has been escorted to Dalton’s lap quite regularly during the game as well. Both of them have also committed a few costly penalties that have negated big plays throughout the season.

The only reason Dalton has been able to survive as well is he has done a great job of making reads quickly. The Bengals also have started running more screens to help keep defensive linemen from pinning their ears back. I would be surprised if the Dolphins didn’t manage to get to Dalton a few times though.

3. Speaking of injuries, the Bengals are dealing with several big names who have had injuries lately. How are the Bengals going to replace tight end Tyler Eifert, who broke his ankle and is out for the season? And, I have seen mixed reports so far, but should the Dolphins expect to see Joe Mixon this week?

I would expect Joe Mixon to play. You could tell by the way he was running around on the sideline during the Falcons game that he was close. He actually was on of the first people to celebrate with Green after he caught the game-winning pass. Unless he suffers a setback he should be out there.

Tyler Eifert will be pretty much impossible to replace with just one guy obviously. Many casual fans may expect Tyler Kroft to be the main guy, but I think C.J. Uzomah is the tight end to watch out for. He has made some big plays already this season, and he is just far more versatile as a play maker than Kroft is. I also think receiver Tyler Boyd will get even more targets as Dalton’s main safety blanket since Eifert is out.

4. Cincinnati is 29th in the league right now, allowing 419 yards per game this year, 303.5 through the air (28th) and 115.8 on the ground (21st). Where can Miami attack the defense, and how do you think the Bengals will use Vontaze Burfict as he comes back from his suspension this week?

Attack the linebackers in the passing game. It is the same thing every week with the Bengals. The short and intermediate passes that they leave the linebackers to cover get attacked all game. The Falcons even managed to get receivers in that position during the game. If The Bengals can’t get pressure on the passer it is usually pretty easy for the quarterback to pick them apart.

Vontaze Burfict should help get everyone playing with more effort. He is just one of those guys who gets everyone fired up. I don’t think he fixes the coverage issues, but he does help the run defense quite a bit. It will be interesting to see how he impacts the rotation at linebacker as Nick Vigil plays almost every snap, and Preston Brown usually rotates with Hardy Nickerson Jr., so Burfict may end up benching Brown and Nickerson.

5. Who do Dolphins fans not know that will be a factor in this game?

This is Tyler Boyd’s season. People are just now starting to hear about him due to fantasy. He has been heavily targeted since Week 2, and he looks like the guy Cincinnati thought they were getting when they drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft. Boyd actually leads the team in catches (26) and yards (349) ahead of Green.

Even last week Boyd was targeted on important third downs and even the fourth down that led to the Bengals game-winner. Dalton has an incredible amount of trust that Boyd will beat his man, and with defenses focusing on Green and the speed of John Ross, Boyd usually has one-on-one match ups.