'We have our work cut out for us'
When the Broncos meet the Bengals on Sunday, a key matchup will be Denver’s revitalized offensive line’s ability to establish the run vs. a Cincinnati defense that ranks last in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. The Broncos’ fourth-best rushing offense, featuring running back C.J. Anderson, should have plenty of opportunities to capitalize.
“He’s got great vision,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday. “He has ability to cut and run the football. He gets his shoulders pointed toward the goal line. He had the run against us last year, where we don’t quite leverage him the right way and he ends up scoring on a 39-yard run. It proved to be the difference in the football game -- literally. You have to do a good job of leveraging tackles on him. He’s got enough speed to make a long run like that.”
On the opposite side, the Bengals offense has struggled to establish its attack on the ground, relying almost entirely on their passing game that is second in the league in passing yards per game. Dalton, the league leader in passing yards, identified where the Bengals’ running game needs to look to improve vs. the Broncos.
“I think for us, not everybody has been on the same page,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “We’ve had a couple of missed assignments that could have helped us have a couple bigger runs. I think for us it’s just making sure our guys are doing what we’re supposed to do and that will definitely help us with the run game.”
'I think they're very confident'
The Broncos defense has plenty to be confident about after starting off the 2016 season exactly where they left off in 2015, at the top of the league in yards per play allowed. In the first two games, they’ve managed to corral two of the league’s top quarterbacks in Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, while also forcing turnovers that have put the Broncos in prime position to win games. Against the Bengals, it will face yet another premier quarterback in Dalton, and one of the league’s elite receivers in A.J. Green, who will be a tough matchup even for the No Fly Zone.
“I think the thing that stands out is the pass rush, obviously,” said Dalton. “They’ve done a great job getting to the quarterback. They have eight sacks in two weeks and you see that stand out. They play tight coverage. They make you make contested catches and throw into tight windows.”
Though the defense looks a little different from the 2015 unit, Lewis doesn’t see much of a change from last season either. The main difference for the Bengals will be the fact that the Broncos will be without defensive captain DeMarcus Ware.
“They were playing at a high level last year and they’ve picked up basically where they left off,” Lewis said. “I don’t see a lot of change; I know they’ve got a little different inside at linebacker. They do such a good job. The guys are cloned. They’re good athletes. They play hard and downhill. They’re fun to watch that way.”
The Bengals understand just how good this Broncos’ defense can be, and what they see as the key to overcome the dominant group is taking advantage of opportunities when they arrive.
“I think you have to play your game. I think you have to trust your guys to go make plays. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Dalton said. “When you have the opportunity to make plays, you have to make them. I think that’s the biggest way you can face these guys.”
'There are not many like him around'
Von Miller is one of a kind, and the Bengals are well aware of just how effective Miller can be. Coming off a commanding performance that earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, Miller leads the league in sacks through the first two games. Dalton knows the “Sackmaster” is someone he’ll have to be aware of at all times.
“Von is so talented and he already has four sacks in two games,” Dalton said. “You have to know where he’s at because he is a guy who can really change the course of the game with how good he is. You definitely need to know where he’s at. You just have to know where he is.”
Miller seems to be in peak form already, providing yet another challenge for Lewis, who understands fully the difficulty of game-planning for a player of his quality.
“There’s not much he can’t do. He can beat you with speed, he can get underneath you, he can bull-rush you. He does it all. He has a high motor and never stops. He’s so athletic, and I think that’s why he’s been one of the best since he’s been in the NFL. He’s had four sacks in two games, so he’s playing well so far this year.”