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Raiders vs. Bengals: Five questions with the enemy

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s note: As the Raiders ready to square up with the Cincinnati Bengals, I had the opportunity to ask Patrick Judis of Cincy Jungle some questions about the Bengals. He discusses head coach Zac Taylor, rookie QB Ryan Finley’s second start and how the Bengals could grab an upset. You can catch my side of things here.

From my viewpoint, it seems impossible to assess the job that Zac Taylor has done in his first year in Cincinnati. Are there any bright spots you’ve seen that the young coach has brought to the table?

There have been good and bad things this season regarding Taylor (as you may expect from an 0-9 start). The biggest thing is he wasn’t set up in an optimal way to do well this year.

It was clear that owner Mike Brown and company (his kids and director of player personnel Duke Tobin) were determined to try and make the most of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green’s closing window rather than hit the hard reset button. It felt like they were determined to prove it was all Marvin Lewis’ fault that this team wasn’t successful. That really blew up in their face, though.

As far as what we can gleam from Taylor’s first season, it is good to see players like John Ross have a pretty good start to the season. But overwhelmingly, the first eight games were troubling. We thought we’d see more creative play calls to help get around what is a bad offensive line, but we rarely see them. Things like jet sweeps and fake jet sweeps should be run relatively frequently, but we almost never see it. Instead, up until last week, the offense tried to rely on a zone type running scheme that really needs the offensive line to be at its best. That is why Joe Mixon had a much worse 2019 despite largely the same personnel.

Taylor needs to show he can be more adaptive to not only what other teams are throwing at him, but also what his own team is capable of.

What should the Raiders expect from Ryan Finley in his second career start?

Finley looked good at sensing pressure and being able to move around in the pocket. He also showed the willingness to keep his eyes up when avoiding pressure. Overall though, he is still a rookie quarterback making his second start who has obvious limitations in arm strength. Last week he had two turnovers that were returned for touchdowns, and this team is going to have to live with plays like that.

This move wasn’t made because the Bengals think Finley is any better than Dalton. Rather, they are looking to evaluate Finley leading up to an offseason where Cincinnati will almost certainly be looking for a new quarterback. It is a matter of whether Finley can be viewed as a backup quarterback for next year.

What is the Bengals’ blueprint to a potential upset on Sunday?

Two things the Bengals have really struggled with are converting third downs and stopping opposing teams on third down. Last week, it took until the second half for the Bengals defense to actually get the Ravens offense off the field. This was mostly due to Baltimore having one of the toughest offenses in the NFL to stop. Usually Cincinnati are at least average in this area. The usual culprit of struggles for the Bengals’ defensive struggles is the offense not being able to stay on the field. This offense has been one of the worst in the NFL, and it is hard to watch at times. There was a stretch where it felt like every fight for a first down was an unbelievably tall climb. This led to the defense being on the field for an insane amount of time. Plenty of the close losses are blamed on the defense giving up points at the end of the game, but in reality, they were gassed from keeping the games close for so long.

To accomplish this, the Bengals need to get Mixon going early, and they need to keep this game close from the start. This team isn’t built for a comeback. The defense needs to create turnovers and limit big plays. Something they struggle with in all of their games that they end up losing by double digits. The closer this game stays, the more it plays into the Bengals’ favor, but even then they still need a few bounces to go their way to even have a chance.

Looking ahead, would you rather see the Bengals roll the dice on a quarterback or take a surefire stud like Chase Young in the upcoming draft?

I am firmly in the quarterback camp. No offense to Chase Young. He is a wonderful player that any team would be lucky to have, but this team HAS to hit the quarterback lottery to even have a chance at being competitive in the long term. The Bengals aren’t an active enough team in free agency to be able to fill the holes in their roster. They need a guy who can come in and elevate the roster. Who that is among the young quarterbacks coming in? I’m not sure yet, but that is when the Taylor era really starts for me.

What is your prediction for the game?

I’m not disillusioned. This Bengals team is more in evaluation mode than competitive mode. They’d need a few big bounces to go their way to have a realistic shot. I don’t think they have another dud in them like last week though. The Bengals probably score a couple of times late to make it look closer than it actually will be.

Raiders 35 Bengals 24