Andy Dalton was sacked five times against the Seahawks. The 49ers massively upgraded their pass rush, and it paid dividends Week 1. Are you worried about that matchup, or was there more to it than the box score?
The Bengals were extra thin at offensive tackle against Seattle. Our first-round pick Jonah Williams is currently on injured reserve, and Cordy Glenn was out with a concussion. Also, Bobby Hart remains to be the weakest link on the offensive line at right tackle. If Glenn can’t go again this week, Cincinnati will likely try to do what they did against the Seahawks. They will throw quick passes, screens, or use misdirection to try and give Andy Dalton extra time in the pocket.
The reason he was probably sacked so much though was because the Seahawks had a great game plan to stop whatever the Bengals were trying to do in the running game. Dalton threw the ball over 50 times, and when you throw that much odds are your quarterback is going to get sacked at some point.
John Ross looked great on Sunday. How much of a factor will he be against the 49ers, and do you think the offense will be able to have success on Sunday?
You just happen to be talking to one of the biggest John Ross believers, so you can imagine how satisfying it was to watch him go off Sunday. Over Ross’ first two seasons in Cincinnati, it was clear there was a divide between him and Marvin Lewis. Ross would often be benched as soon as he dropped a pass or made a mistake. Then last season he was used more as a decoy to help open up underneath routes for other guys.
This coaching staff knows how to use the threat of his speed to get him open on a consistent basis. They realize if a defender is lining up 10 yards off of him that they can run a screen or quick pass out to him for easy yards. It seems simple, but Cincinnati never did those things with Ross. That being said, he still had a few unacceptable drops, but it was a really great start to the season for him.
As far as what this team needs to do for offensive success, Joe Mixon needs to get going. The Bengals were forced to air the ball out consistently because the Seahawks almost never left their base personnel. Dalton had plenty of success, but even when the Bengals tried to run the ball, they just couldn’t. That won’t consistently win them games. Even if it is just short passes to Mixon, he needs to be involved. It should be noted that Mixon is dealing with an ankle injury, but he is expected to play. If he doesn’t, you can replace his name with Giovani Bernard.
What were your overall impressions from first-year head coach Zac Taylor?
Zac Taylor absolutely seems like the guy for the job. He is so much more open with fans and the media, and he is a players coach. My biggest complaint was him punting away the ball and putting it on the defense towards the end of the game, but that is more a philosophical difference. The team I watched Sunday, even though it is comprised of mostly the same players from last season, looked like an entirely different team than the 2018 rendition. The offense looked like something out of this decade, and the defense actually created stops and pressured the quarterback. Teams are going to be surprised by how feisty this team is.
Who are the key plays on the Bengals defense 49ers’ fans should know about?
Everything the Bengals defense does start with Geno Atkin’s ability to disrupt opposing offenses. Even if he just draws double teams opens up things for everyone else. The other key players happen to be pretty young guys. In the secondary, you have safety Jessie Bates, who has quietly been a great cover safety. Cornerback William Jackson is their best coverage corner. On the defensive line, expect to hear Sam Hubbard’s name a lot. He had a solid rookie season, but he really stood out against the Seahawks with ten tackles and two sacks on the day. In passing situations, Carl Lawson could make some noise rushing the passer as well.
What’s your score prediction, and why?
The Bengals should have a pretty energetic home opener. If last week’s game weren’t close fans probably wouldn’t be as inclined to go, but I expect it to be loud for Cincinnati standards. I think teams are still trying to figure out what to expect from the Bengals, so the 49ers may take a bit of time to make adjustments. That could lead to an early lead for Cincinnati.
What will probably decide the game is whether the Bengals are able to grind some clock while still moving the ball in the running game. If they can do that Cincinnati could send the 49ers back to San Francisco with a close loss.