The Cincinnati Bengals are entering week 7 as they prepare to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. With every game of the season, there will be things to watch and focus on. Here are five things to watch for in week 7.
1. Can the Defense Stop the Run?
Minshew Mania is real, but Jacksonville’s offense is much better when they are able to run the football. After a rough start to the season, Leonard Fournette has been running well. After having under 70 yards for the first three games of the season, he has three straight games of over 70 yards. In the last three games, he has rushed for 405 yards.
In order to have any chance at winning the game, the Bengals need to stop Fournette. That won’t be easy, as the Bengals give up the most rushing yards per game. It will take the front four playing much better and linebackers finishing plays with a tackle. It’s possible, but the Bengals need to play a lot better to make it a more real possibility.
2. Will Brandon Wilson Continue to Contribute?
Although he came into the season as a marginal player, Brandon Wilson has made an impact. He made a huge defensive play against the Steelers on a fourth and short. Against the Ravens, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. For his play, Pro Football Focus has rated Wilson at a 65, which is better than most defenders on the Bengals.
To help win the game, Wilson needs to have some big plays. A return touchdown would help an offense that has struggled to move the ball. A big play on defense would help a unit that is one of the worst in the league. Either way, Wilson is an x-factor for this team now.
3. Zac Taylor’s Adjustments
It is six games into the 2019 NFL season and Zac Taylor has yet to have his first career win as head coach. This isn’t all on him, as the roster isn’t rich with talent and there have been injuries. Some of this is on him, as he has yet to make meaningful adjustments before games or in games. He will need to start doing that if the Bengals are to win any games this year.
One adjustment that Taylor made last week was abandoning the run game. It wasn’t working so he passed the ball a lot more, the Bengals still didn’t score a lot of points and they lost the game. For this game he will have to diagnose what is going wrong and make changes to help win the game. If Fournette is gashing them for big runs, he’ll have to tell Lou Anarumo to stack the box and make Gardner Minshew beat them. If the running game isn’t working, he’ll need to run more to the outside or do misdirection to help beat the defense. It may not result in a win, but seeing these adjustments being made and working could give fans more confidence in him as a head coach moving forward.
4. Will Germaine Pratt Get Even More Snaps?
It was noted last week that Germaine Pratt needed to see the field more. The Bengals seemed to believe so too, as Pratt got the most snaps of his NFL career against the Ravens. He played well too, as he looked good stopping the run and in coverage.
It is imperative for his development that he get more snaps. This game has a chance to show that the former college safety can cover really well, but that he can also help in run support against Fournette. At this point of the season, the Bengals need to look forward to how they can improve for the coming years.
5. Can Andy Dalton Improve?
The offensive line is still not playing great, but Andy Dalton needs to play better. He was only sacked two times, but only completed 21 of 39 passes for 235 yards and an interception. Dalton is carrying the team right now with the running game not moving the ball and for the Bengals to win he needs to play a little better.
Jacksonville has a good pass rush and solid corners which will make it tough for Dalton. To make matters worse, the Bengals will still likely be without A.J. Green and John Ross, meaning Dalton’s weapons won’t be as good. With limited weapons and a faulty offensive line it will be hard for Dalton to improve, but he’ll need to if they are to keep competing.