Bengals vs. Texans: 5 Ways Cincinnati Can Help out Rookie QB Andy Dalton
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton carries the Cincinnati hopes on his back. He wasn’t supposed to be in this position, but once forced to move in as the starter, he’s made the most of the opportunity and gotten the Bengals into the playoffs.
The Bengals need to step up and help him out if Cincinnati is going to come out of Houston with a win.
Here are five areas that must produce that help:
5. CBs Adam Jones, Nate Clements Must Put Clamps on Texans WR Andre Johnson
Adam Jones, Bengals
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
The Bengals best shot to let Dalton dictate the flow of the game will be to keep the score low.
Doing that means that Houston’s top receiver, Andre Johnson, can’t be wide open for quarterback T.J. Yates all afternoon.
Not only will starting cornerbacks Adam Jones and Nate Clements take turns shutting down Johnson, but backups Kelly Jennings and Brandon Ghee will have to step it up as well.
4. LT Andrew Whitworth and the Offensive Line Must Shut Down the Texans Blitz
Andrew Whitworth, Bengals
Al Bello/Getty Images
Like most quarterbacks, Dalton is at his best when he can drop back and have time to scan the field for his receivers.
His 16-game history with the Bengals shows that his weakness is the way he reacts to the blitz. He gets sacked just once every 37.9 times dropping back under a four-man (or less) rush, but once every 13.2 times when five or more defenders join the rush.
Andrew Whitworth and compatriots C Kyle Cooke and RT Andre Smith need to put aside past problems on the blitz and give Dalton time to throw.
3. WR Jerome Simpson Has to Take Pressure off WR A.J. Green
Jerome Simpson, Bengals
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
There seems little doubt that the Texans, like other teams facing the Bengals this year, will attempt to blanket rookie sensation A.J. Green for the full 60 minutes.
He hasn’t been consistent, but for the Bengals to come out of this one with a win, he’s going to have to give Dalton the chance to find him.
2. RB Cedric Benson Must Punish the Texans Defense
Cedric Benson, Bengals
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
It’s been a hot-and-cold season for RB Cedric Benson, who reached 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season.
He’s only averaged 3.9 yards per carry, however, and he hasn’t had a 100-yard game in any of his last five starts. He’s gotten fewer than 60 yards in three of those five games.
To keep the pressure off of Dalton and to keep the offense balanced, Benson has to at least match what he did against the Texans last month when he had 91 yards and 4.3 yards per carry.
1. WR A.J. Green Needs to Dazzle One More Time and Play Smart
A.J. Green, Bengals
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
There’s no doubt that the Texans’ defense will attempt to smother rookie sensation A.J. Green.
Everybody else has. And in the last two games of the season, Green was held to just two catches each by the Ravens and the Cardinals.
It’s been five weeks since the last time Green scored a touchdown. But with 1,057 yards and seven scores to his credit, the rookie is a major threat and the major complement to Dalton’s arm.
Green has to shake his way out of the doldrums and put up big numbers for a national audience.
And he needs to cut out the stupid stuff—including his league-leading eight penalties, most of them for things like false starts, being offsides or being in an illegal formation.