Editor’s Note: Coltzilla’s Travis Tango had the opportunity to catch up with Josh Kirkendall of CincyJungle.com to get an inside look at the Cincinnati Bengals. Take some time to browse Travis’ questions and Josh’s answers after the jump.
Travis Tango – Although Dalton hasn’t been spectacular, it’s hard to deny that he has shown he could be a good NFL QB. The rumor circulating is that he needs to target more of his options. Is it true that he is focusing too much on his first and second read?
Josh Kirkendall – I believe it’s by design for two reasons – youth and system. Remember, he’s only entering his sixth career game in his young NFL career. Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has kept it simple for Dalton, giving him more plays every week to work with. Most of Dalton’s passes are two reads and if he’s unable to find a receiver by the end of his drop, he’ll either get sacked, improvise out of the pocket or find an outlet receiver. Furthermore the Bengals are using a quick west coast passing game, so the reads will be quick and limited.
TT- The offensive line has been average at best, giving up 10 sacks in 5 games. Is this a major concern for the Bengals entering this game against two of the premier ends in the league in Mathis and Freeney? How will Cincinnati handle them?
JK – Anytime you face two of the best pass rushers in the league, I imagine it’s something every team will game plan against. Andrew Whitworth is one of the league’s best and underrated tackles and Andre Smith is finally developing into a good tackle. Whether he can handle Robert Mathis is one of those headlines we’re waiting to see, because we’re curious just how good Smith can be against one of the league’s best defensive ends.
Jay Gruden will help Smith out, using chip blocks from backs and tight ends to slow his rush. Generally speaking though, the Bengals will use two methods to hopefully neutralize the Colts pass rush; a quick passing game and a rushing offense.
TT – The Bengals have been good defensively — 3rd against the pass and 7th against the run. What has been the biggest key to the improvement of Cincinnati’s defensive play over last year? How does losing MLB Maualuga affect your defense this week?
JK – Maualuga sprained his ankle during practice on Thursday, so he’ll be out. His absence will hurt the defense, but his replacement, Dan Skuta is strong against the run. Maualuga isn’t particularly strong in coverage, so we’re not losing much there.
The biggest reason our defense is playing so well is the front four. Eight guys rotate along the defensive line with young and productive pass rushers that’s enabled defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to call more coverages in the secondary and at linebacker. However the defensive line rotates an entirely different set of players that are very strong against the run. Cincinnati’s secondary has also proved to be capable tacklers and hard-hitters against the run.
TT – As a follow-up, do you think the run defense will be your biggest struggle against the Colts — and potentially the key for an Indianapolis win?
JK – The Bengals weakest area on defense is their pass defense. If there’s no pass rush and Curtis Painter is allowed to set his feet and find options, he could have a good game. Additionally the secondary has allowed a handful of big plays this year and at the rate Pierre Garcon is playing over the past two games, he could have a couple of big plays.
TT – What is your score prediction? Also, what are the keys to the Bengals getting a win?
JK – It’ll be a close game. The Bengals haven’t sustained a lead yet this year until some point in the fourth quarter to claim their wins. And the combined score of their losses is seven points. This game will be won within seven points, so let’s say 24-20.
We would like to thank Josh for taking the time out of his busy schedule to provide Colts fans with some useful answers that provide some insight into what Indianapolis could on Sunday.