<
>

Bengals mail Part 1: Is the league catching up to new schemes?

CINCINNATI -- It's been a concern for those away from Paul Brown Stadium for the last two weeks: Has the rest of the league caught up to the Cincinnati Bengals' new schemes?

New coordinators Hue Jackson (offense) and Paul Guenther (defense) have only been in charge of their respective units for six games, but already there is concern that teams know exactly what both are preparing to run, and are, for lack of a better term, out-scheming them. After looking unbeatable for three games, both the offense and the defense have appeared easily decipherable.

So are teams catching up to them? Or is something else going on? That's where we begin with the first part of this week's mailbag:

@ColeyHarvey: Thanks for the question, Andy. You raise an interesting point, one I've had asked of me often these last two weeks. I will say this. With respect to the offense, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a slight correlation. After all, the book on Jackson has been out for years. He's been a coordinator before and has been a head coach before, too. So teams have seen his playbook before, and they know how creative of an offensive mind he possesses. It seems as if teams have taken great care in the last four games to not let the misdirection or unexpected fool them. They clearly are growing more and more ready for a Mohamed Sanu pass, and are fully attuned when Bengals skill players go in motion.

Having said that, I don't think that adequately explains why the Bengals' offense has struggled. It goes deeper than that. It goes to rhythm and execution, two things I'd argue the defense has missed, too. You get rhythm and enhance it when players are able to spend significant amounts of time playing together. The Bengals have been out of sync on both sides of the ball for much of the year because of injuries. They'd like to get A.J. Green more involved, but that toe injury has stalled some of that. They'd like to get their defense flying around each week, too, but it complicates things when the star defender and chief play-communicator keeps leaving games with head injuries.


@ColeyHarvey: Ah, another question I've been getting a lot of late, and one I've mostly stayed away from. The short answer? No. I don't see the Bengals making any moves before the trade deadline right now. The only type of move that I could foresee possibly changing that belief between now and Tuesday's deadline is if they find that A.J. Green's toe suddenly becomes more stubborn than they had anticipated.

If it gets that bothersome, I could see the Bengals shutting Green down for the season. (It's important to note that there doesn't appear to be any reason, for now, to believe that will be the case. He, in fact, appears to be progressing nicely.) If they do find they have to do that, it would be smart bring in another respected receiver who can be paired with Sanu as they weather this deluge of hits they have taken to their pass-catchers this season. We'll get to more on that Sunday morning before the game against the Ravens. As far as reports about Jermaine Gresham being trade bait, don't believe them. With Tyler Eifert still out possibly another two games, it would make no sense to let go of the other premier pass-catching tight end.


@ColeyHarvey: Every time Bengals coaches are asked that question by myself or others, they continue to say they believe he is progressing. I think we're seeing flashes of the old Geno Atkins, but it is hard to see him back at his old consistent self for right now. He just hasn't shown so far that he can play 60 minutes the way he had been before suffering the ACL injury last season. He certainly isn't looking to this point like a defensive tackle who earned a $55 million contract for himself. Cincinnati's pressure on quarterbacks hasn't been very good this season, and he's a big reason why. Maybe after getting credited with a half-sack last week, we'll see Atkins start to turn a corner. Part of the issue also is that his teammates around him aren't getting much push. If the whole line could get to quarterbacks better, perhaps Atkins' shortcomings won't be as glaring.

@ColeyHarvey: There has been a little talk about it, Layne, my buddy. We wrote this post on Brandon Thompson earlier this week. As you can see in that link, the Bengals would definitely welcome the jolt a player like Thompson could provide them. He is their top reserve at defensive tackle, coming in regularly for Domata Peko on run-stop situations. He also adequately relieved Atkins last year following Atkins' season-ending injury. It's no surprise that the Bengals' worst performances against the run this season have come in the six weeks Thompson has been hurt. He's questionable to play Sunday, but whenever he does return, the Bengals will be glad to have him -- because they need him.