The Redskins are now the “hot team” in the NFC East after their huge Monday night win over the Giants, but the other big beneficiary of the result of that game was of course the Cowboys, who are now also back in the NFC East hunt after squeaking by the Eagles. All three teams face tough challenges this week. The Redskins play the 9-3 Ravens, and the Giants host a Saints team that is having a bad season, but has also flat out owned the Giants in recent years. The Cowboys, meanwhile, travel to Cincinnati to take on a Bengals team that has won four straight games.
The Bengals are a team that has impressed me all season long. A.J. Green is clearly now a Top 5 NFL wide receiver, and I’ve heard people call Geno Atkins the best DT in the league. However, the two players that have really caught my eye this season have been RG Kevin Zeitler and RT Andre Smith. That might be the best RG-RT combo in the NFL.
Early in the season I broke down how Smith and Zeitler effectively utilized double-teams against the Ravens, and just a few weeks ago I noted how they thoroughly demoralized Giants DT Linval Joseph.
They’re only getting better, as their zone blocking scheme has dominated up front the last two weeks, albeit against bad teams. It’s Football 101, but the Bengals are executing it perfectly.
Last week against the Chargers, the Bengals continued to dominate up front using double-teams. Circled below are Zeitler and Smith, with Chargers DE Kendall Reyes in their gap. The Bengals have a 3-WR set, so the Chargers are in a nickle look:
At the snap, Zeitler will try to establish outside position on Reyes, and he’ll get some help from Smith, who gives Zeitler extra help pushing Reyes inside. Smith will then look to peel off and block #51 Takeo Spikes (circled):
Smith gets to the second level and locks onto Spikes. He has now helped clear out two defenders:
And BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a gaping hole:
That play went for 41 yards.
Later in the game, more of the same. Again, Zeitler and Smith are circled:
At the snap, Zeitler and Smith easily wash the DL down the line, opening up a big hole:
Smith then comes off once again and locks onto the linebacker:
Jermaine Gresham adds a nice block on Shaun Phillips, and that’s a hole that I could run through:
That play got 9.
The previous week against Oakland, BenJarvus Green-Ellis rattled off a 48 yard run. It was a career-long run, and as usual, it came behind a Zeitler-Smith double-team. Here they are, circled again:
At the snap, they easily wash #96 down the line. This time, however, the Bengals are in an I formation, so the linebacker to the strong side will be the fullback’s responsibility, instead of Smith’s:
Smith comes off his double-team, and attacks the weak side backer (#56), while the fullback gets a nice block on the strong side backer #55:
Green-Ellis squeezes through the hole for 48.
That run prompted the following joke from Chris Wesseling of Rotoworld:
What Chris is talking about here is that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is about as far from an explosive back as you’ll find in the NFL for a guy that gets as many carries as he does. Green-Ellis is on pace for about 1100 yards, and it’s due almost entirely to the Bengals’ OL.
Andre Smith has come a long way from his initial taste of life in the NFL:
He has become an excellent player, and the Cowboys better be ready for some physical football on Sunday.