The Cincinnati Bengals week four game against their hated rival the Pittsburgh Steelers was not great, to say the least. In their previous three games, the Bengals had at least some semblance of decent football. This was not the case on Monday Night Football on ESPN for all of the world to see. Let’s dive in.
Cincinnati Bengals Week Four: Race To The Bottom
This Offensive Line is Offensive
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Bengals offensive line is atrocious. The starting line for the Bengals this week was Andre Smith, Michael Jordan, Trey Hopkins, John Miller, and Bobby Hart. In the preseason, Bengals faithful knew that the offensive line would be a weakness, but losing first-round draft pick Jonah Williams to injury did not help. Cordy Glenn has been battling the concussion protocol for more than a month, so the Bengals are forced to start players who would not make rosters for 31 other teams.
In the Bengals week four meltdown, quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked eight times. Two of those sacks were given up thanks to the brilliant idea of blocking T.J. Watt with a tight end. 10 times out of 10, Watt will win that matchup. I would understand if the Steelers were selling out and loading the box play after play. The issue here is the fact that one most of these plays, Pittsburgh only rushed their four down linemen. Often times, it was as straightforward as it could get. Hart and Smith are massive liabilities at the starting tackle positions. Play after play, Pittsburgh just blew right by each tackle; half of the time, Hart was committing a false start and was still getting beat. Offensive line coach Jim Turner (who lobbied hard to re-sign Hart and Smith) should be relieved of his duties as soon as they return to Cincinnati. I may not be the world’s largest Andy Dalton fan, but I sure do feel bad for him. The Bengals were terrible on the offensive line in 2018 and have managed to get worse.
Defense Is Still A Glaring Weakness
When you have a defensive line that is as talented as the Bengals’, you can afford to run a 4-2 defense. The issue here is those two linebackers have been less than ideal. Nick Vigil and Preston Brown have been the starting linebackers thus far and have continuously let the defense down. On multiple plays (most notably the short passes), Brown took his read steps and stepped right into a block. The Bengals brought Brown back after an injury-shortened 2018 season, but he has not been playing as if he was worth that contract. If there is a silver lining, it would be that Vigil led the team in tackles with 11 and tallied two tackles for loss.
Do you know what happened on that Mason Rudolph to Dionte Johnson touchdown? The Bengals were in man coverage with one deep safety. JuJu Smith-Schuster crossed the field from left to right and William Jackson followed him. Johnson ran a mirrored route that crossed Smith-Schuster, but his corner decided to drop back and not cover him. Who was that corner, you ask? It was none other than Dre Kirkpatrick. Bobby Hart is to linemen as Kirkpatrick is to cornerbacks. This defense allowed Rudolph to complete 24 passes on 28 attempts for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most of his completions were short passes to wide-open receivers with no defender anywhere close. The Steelers offense had their way with the Bengals defense. Not a good look, considering this was the same offense that had been shut down for the previous three weeks.
Embrace The Tank?
The socially accepted worst team in the NFL is the Miami Dolphins, who are also 0-4. The difference between the Bengals and the Dolphins is that Miami is trying to lose and Cincinnati is trying to win. That’s about as sad as it gets. The Bengals have lost 13 of their last 15 games. The Cincinnati Bengals week four performance encapsulated why. Realistically, the Bengals need to take a page out of the Dolphins’ playbook and embrace the tank. Get on the phone to try and trade away guys like Giovani Bernard and Kirkpatrick and get whatever you can. Honestly, Cincinnati should do right by A.J. Green and work out a trade to send him to a contender, like the New England Patriots. The Bengals have wasted Green’s prime. Perhaps they could work out a deal with the Washington Redskins to get their estranged tackle, Trent Williams. Williams’ price may be too high for the Bengals, but they should at least try. It doesn’t matter if they win the Tua Tagovailoa sweepstakes if they can’t protect him.
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