In the NFL, there are important individual matchups that help to decide each and every game. Whether it’s a position group against another position group, an individual against a position group, or an individual against an individual, these matchups can determine winners and losers. Every week throughout the season, I break down at least two matchups for both the Bengals’ offense and defense against their opponents.
Cordy Glenn, Left Tackle vs. Myles Garrett, Defensive End
The left tackle position has not been talked about much this season in Cincinnati, and that’s great for this team. After how bad the position was last season, Cordy Glenn has come in and locked it down. Nobody talking about Glenn means he isn’t playing out of this world great, but it also means he’s not giving up sacks on a weekly basis. The Bengals have to be more than happy with that. He may never be at the top end of his position, but in this day and age of pass rushers, all you can ask for is solid play at the left tackle spot. He gives up some pressures to the better sack artists that line up against him, but he wins more than he loses. Not to mention he is an absolute monster in the run game.
If you’re looking for the next great pass rusher in the NFL, turn on a Cleveland Browns game. Myles Garrett is a freak and I mean that in the best way possible. I’m no scouting expert but I have slowly begun to recognize what people mean when they talk about ankle flexion and hip flexibility. Combine those with burst off the line and you have the makings of an elite pass rusher. Garrett has all of those things and then some. A 6’4″272-pound defensive end should not be able to bend the edge as he does. On top of his physical gifts, he is a student of the game and is quite the technician. Turn on any Browns game and you will see Garrett doing freakish things that only the best of the best can do.
This could be the biggest challenge Glenn has faced all season long. There simply aren’t many players like Garrett out there. The Bengals can only hope to slow Garrett down, there is no stopping him completely. Glenn is good enough to win some reps but simply isn’t athletic enough to keep up with him the whole game. Cincinnati should look to double team Garrett as much as possible and help Glenn out.
Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver vs. Browns Cornerbacks
Star wide receiver A.J. Green was recently downgraded to doubtful, that means another week of Tyler Boyd being the main weapon for quarterback Andy Dalton. 2018 has been the breakout season for the 2016 second round pick. Playing both outside and in the slot, Boyd has really developed the small nuances of his game. He plays smart, finding the holes in zones, and with excellent feet in his route running that help him create separation in man coverage. He is quickly becoming one of the best “number two” wide receivers in the league.
The weakness of an otherwise strong Cleveland defense is the secondary. Rookie first round pick Denzel Ward has been sensational and looks to be one of the next great cornerbacks in football. Outside of Ward, the cornerback room is just bad. T.J. Carrie and Phillip Gaines probably wouldn’t be seeing many snaps for most teams but they play a majority of them for the Browns. A strong front seven helps cover up the deficiencies in the secondary but can’t do it for an entire game.
Boyd is in for a big game if Dalton has time to get him the ball. Ward has the talent to shut Boyd down for most of the game but he is still a rookie and Boyd can exploit that. Carrie and Gaines will have a tough time keeping up with the Bengals breakout star. Cincinnati likes to move their wide receivers around and that should help put Boyd in favorable situations outside of lining up against Ward all game long.
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Bengals Defensive Ends vs. Browns Offensive Tackles
The lack of a pass rush is killing this teams defense. Yes the linebackers are bad, and the secondary has been banged up, but the pass rush was supposed to be the strength of the team. It was to start the season but has disappeared in recent weeks. Carlos Dunlap shows up at times but not often enough, and fellow starter Michael Johnson offers little to no pass rush. The loss of Carl Lawson has really hurt because Jordan Willis and rookie Sam Hubbard have failed to fill his shoes. If Cincinnati wants to turn things around, they need that group to get it together and fast.
The retirement of future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas apparently blindsided the Browns. They failed to adequately replace him in free agency and the draft. Undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison earned the starting job coming into the season and has been absolutely dreadful. Harrison has been replaced in recent weeks by Greg Robinson and that isn’t much of an upgrade. Robinson was an infamous flop as the number two overall pick for the St. Louis (now in Los Angeles) Rams and hasn’t improved much over his career. 2018 free agent signee Chris Hubbard was supposed to come in and lock down the right tackle job but has been less than admirable in the starting position.
If there is a week for the Bengals pass rushers to break out of this recent slump, it is this week. Facing a very bad group of pass protectors on the edges, the athletic pass rushers for the Bengals need to take advantage. There is no reason Dunlap, Willis, and Hubbard shouldn’t have a field day against guys like Robinson and Hubbard. Look for Cincinnati to put some pressure on rookie standout quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Bengals Linebackers vs. Nick Chubb, Running Back
The worst group of linebackers in the NFL reside in Cincinnati. Injuries have struck and taken starters Nick Vigil, Preston Brown, and Vontaze Burfict out for stretches of the season. Those three haven’t played well this season to begin with, and now must be replaced by players that are somehow worse than they are. Jordan Evans is their best hope for good linebacker play and he has been up and down. Hardy Nickerson is slow and takes terrible angles to the football. He racks up tackles but they are mostly down the field after the damage has already been done. Vinny Rey is a reliable veteran leader but there is a reason he has never been a full-time starter for the Bengals.
The release of Carlos Hyde opened the door for rookie Nick Chubb to put his stamp on this Browns team. Chubb has taken that opportunity and run away with it. An absolute bowling ball, he runs low to the ground and is a tackle-breaking machine. He attacks the line of scrimmage, finds the holes, and explodes through them. Busting off a 92-yard touchdown against Atlanta only added to his season yardage total, giving him 579 yards on only 94 carries. That’s a little over six yards per carry, insane numbers for any player let alone a rookie.
Chubb should have no problems running through a terrible group of linebackers in Cincinnati. He’s flashed outstanding power to combine with great burst through the hole. The Bengals linebackers simply can’t handle a running back like Chubb. Athletically, Evans can keep up with him but it won’t surprise me if Chubb goes right through him and the other linebackers on multiple occasions.