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Bengals vs. Dolphins preview: Joe Burrow injury update, Brandon Allen starting, Zac Taylor hot seat

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins host the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend as a part of the NFL’s 2020 Week 13 slate of games. As we move late into the season, the Dolphins are 7-4, within a game of the AFC East lead, and in playoff position as a Wildcard team. The Bengals, meanwhile, are struggling and appear to be heading toward another early pick in the Draft.

How will this game play out? Who should Dolphins fans be watching for Cincinnati? How is Brandon Allen playing as he replaces Joe Burrow? And, how is Burrow, who tore his ACL two weeks ago and will miss the remainder of the season? I had a chance to speak with Patrick Judis from SB Nation’s Bengals team site, Cincy Jungle, to get a closer look at Cincinnati ahead of the game.

Obviously, this game was supposed to be a Joe Burrow versus Tua Tagovailoa showdown, only to have Burrow sustain a major knee injury and Tagovailoa possibly missing the game with a thumb injury. What is the prognosis for Burrow? Is there any chance he is ready for the start of next year? What have you seen as his strengths and weaknesses this year?

Right now it is really hard to tell with Burrow. He underwent surgery this week, but there was word that along with tearing his ACL, he also tore his MCL and has additional structural damage.

It doesn’t sound great, but I wouldn’t put money against Burrow being ready at the beginning of or early next season. However, I think everyone would be okay and understand if he misses the entire 2021 season if his body isn’t ready.

As far as how he looked, he came out better than expected given the obvious roadblocks of this offseason. The most impressive thing is how he already had command over audibles if he saw something in the defense. Some of the team’s best offensive plays have come after he has changed things up at the line.

The biggest knock I’ll give him, and it is really more nitpicking than it sounds. His timing on deep balls could be better. It isn’t a surprise to anyone that he doesn’t have a rocket arm, but he is capable of making plays down field. I chalk it up to timing and getting used to how to place these balls for these new receivers.

Now on to players we will see in this game, what should we expect to see from Brandon Allen? How much does the offense change for him?

Oh man. It is like night and day watching this team without Burrow. No offense to Allen, I’m sure he is a great guy, but he is not Burrow. Head coach Zac Taylor mentioned before the game last week that they really didn’t have to change up the offense with Allen stepping in, but maybe they should’ve. Maybe it is just an indication of Burrow just making Taylor’s system look good.

No matter what the case Allen just doesn’t read the field quick enough for how much time this offensive line can give, and the Giants realized early that their best bet was either sending an exotic blitz or only rushing three, which still created pressure because Allen had to take too much time to try and find a hole.

The Bengals miss Joe Mixon, though Giovani Bernard is not a bad second option. Should we expect to see Mixon this week? Miami’s defensive weakness is against the run, so what should we expect to see from the Bengals on the ground?

Mixon was actually placed on injured reserve recently, and it is really unlikely they’ll activate him off that list with the season lost how it is.

Bernard was playing pretty well in Mixon’s place and even as a backup, but now it appears that defenses are going to be content to crowd the line of scrimmage and make Allen beat them. That doesn’t help Bernard find space behind an offensive line that keeps getting shuffled by the week.

Not too long ago, Zac Taylor was an assistant quarterbacks coach (2012) and quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator (2013-2014) for the Dolphins. He has been the Bengals head coach for a little over a year-and-a-half now, though things are probably going as smoothly as he, or the fans, would have liked. What is your take on Taylor? Could the Bengals, who gave Marvin Lewis 16 seasons, be in the market for a new coach after just two seasons?

Taylor has been very disappointing. I think this late stretch of games was going to be his best chance to put a string of wins together, but Burrow being out has completely derailed this team.

Many will look at it as reason to give Taylor another shot, but honestly this team didn’t get what we thought when Taylor was hired on. He cam from a Sean McVay Rams’ team that was at the forefront of offensive innovation, but we haven’t seen a lot of that creativity put into place. He hasn’t really worked the offense around what he actually has on the field, and there have been some players who have been vocal about not buying what he is selling or understanding it.

Carlos Dunlap’s success with the Seahawks is probably the best example. You could argue Cincinnati’s biggest need is pass rush, and this staff ran out one of their best.

The only way in my mind that Taylor saves his job is by cutting off dead weight like offensive line coach Jim Turner and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo.

How do you attack the Bengals offense? Defense?

Stopping the Bengals’ offense is easy right now. Put your best coverage people on Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins and take away their quick routes. Crowd the line of scrimmage to takeaway the running game. Finally, make Allen beat you.

Getting through this defense isn’t as easy. Running the ball is the safest bet. Making the young linebackers cover complicated routes has also been successful. Most importantly is telling the quarterback not to rush this week. There will be times where he can sit in the pocket four to five seconds. Also escaping the pocket is going to be fairly easy. Just make sure Carl Lawson is accounted for in the pass rush, and don’t test safety Jessie Bates too much if at all.