Simple Formula For Eagles vs. Bengals: RUN
By Rob Maaddi
There’s a simple formula for the Eagles to get their offense going. Run the ball.
The Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) can’t stop it. They finished last against the run in 2019 and have been even worse in the first two games, allowing 370 yards.
A heavy dose of Miles Sanders should put the offense in a rhythm, help Carson Wentz get back on track and give the Eagles (0-2) their first win. Even Doug Pederson agrees.
“I think that opens up more of your play-action game,” he said about leaning on the run. “I think that opens up more of your quarterback movement game, the screen game comes off of that. So obviously when you can have success running the football, it provides more opportunities for the rest of your offense.”
The Bengals have been missing defensive tackle Geno Atkins but their issues against the run go beyond poor play upfront. Linebackers and the defensive backs have missed tackles that turned short gains into long runs. Overall, they’re giving up 5.0 yards per run.
“If we start running the ball early, giving (Pederson) signs we’re going to be successful then a lot of times we’re going to have a good day,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “If we can get that thing going, it takes a lot of pressure off the passing game. It’s a big piece of our offense.”
Here are three more matchups to watch Sunday:
1. Eagles CBs Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay vs. Bengals WRs A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd
Rookie Joe Burrow is averaging a league-worst 5.2 yards per pass attempt and hasn’t completed a pass longer than 18 yards to a wide receiver. He did connect for a 23-yard TD to tight end C.J. Uzomah.
Green has a seven-inch height advantage over the 5-foot-9 Maddox and Boyd is 6-foot-2. It’s likely Slay will follow Green. Burrow said throwing the ball downfield has been a point of emphasis in practice this week.
“We just have to get a good plan against him,” Slay said of Burrow. “He’s a young guy but I really like him. He has great poise, he has swagger, he’s a competitor. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
2. Eagles QB Carson Wentz vs. himself
Wentz has thrown multiple picks in consecutive games for the first time in his career and while he’s getting little help from his receivers and the playcalling limits his abilities, he seems to be pressing. Wentz is ultra- competitive and he’s a perfectionist. But he needs to go out there and just play his game, take what the defense gives and not force throws to receivers who aren’t open. Everyone insists he should throw the ball away when nothing is available but maybe one long run or one Houdini-type play like we’ve seen in the past could be the catalyst to turn things around.
3. Eagles DC Jim Schwartz vs. Bengals coach Zac Taylor
Schwartz acknowledged he put together a “poor” game plan against the Rams. He was clearly outcoached by Sean McVay and needs to get it right against a rookie quarterback playing his third NFL game. Taylor worked under McVay for two seasons in Los Angeles. He’ll certainly borrow some of the play designs that worked so well for the Rams last week, leaving receivers wide open for Jared Goff.
“Coaching is understanding your players, what they do well, adjusting to the ebbs and flows of the season, those kind of things,” Schwartz said. “I don’t know where we are right now. … You give up 30 points, I don’t think you can point to anything that you did well. I always feel like if we can keep it under 20, we’ve really done a good job. A lot of that is not scheme. It’s not anything other than just sort of knowing yourself a little bit and knowing where your problems are, how to bounce back from a bad game, how to also stop the bleeding during a game, those kind of things. I think that’s the biggest thing with coaching. I always felt like I had a pretty good finger on the pulse of our guys. I need to do a better job of that. I need to figure out what our personality is.”