Before the Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals square off for their crucial Week 11 matchup, Patrick Judis of Cincy Jungle was kind enough to answer five questions for Raider Nation about the Bengals.
1. One of the knocks on Joe Burrow coming out of LSU was his arm strength but he’s actually been pretty good with the deep ball this year. Is that one area that you think he’s grown from year one to year two? Building off that, where have you seen the most improvement from Burrow since his rookie season?
It is funny how he went from one of the worst to one of the best deep-ball passers. We can talk about how much of a freak he is. While rehabbing from his ACL injury, he essentially rebuilt his mechanics from the ground up to help the velocity he puts on the ball.
Burrow also has had a bit more time with the current offensive line than one of the worst units last season. Not to mention having an entire offseason to really develop timing with other players can’t be understated.
However, I think the biggest thing is his connection with Ja’Marr Chase, which I’ll expand on in the next question.
2. On a related note, Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase have formed a pretty good deep connection this year, something Burrow and AJ Green struggled with last season. Do you think that’s simply because the old college teammates just have more chemistry together or does Chase bring something that Green just doesn’t anymore at this stage in his career?
Last season it was clear that A.J. Green was either playing hurt or had lost a step. Many plays he would’ve gone up to make a play on he just wasn’t able to do. Also, teams essentially dared Burrow to throw to Green most games and neither was really able to help the other.
With Chase, it just seems like they know what the other is thinking. We can attribute a lot of that to them playing at LSU together, but Chase is also just an incredibly talented receiver. He has already shown that opposing teams can’t leave him in single coverage. That is just a rare talent to see from a rookie.
3. In the trenches, How do you think Riley Reiff and Jonah Williams stack up against Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby, and is there a particular type of defensive end or pass rusher that gives either of them trouble?
Williams I feel very confident in most games. When he has been healthy he has really done well in pass protection outside of a few plays here and there. Reiff has also been a huge improvement over Bobby Hart at right tackle.
The one thing the pass protection has struggled with has been properly communicating how blitzes will be picked up. Often times the running back will miss an assignment, or a twist doesn’t get passed off properly. This unit is still getting used to each other, though. I’m very concerned about the Raiders pass-rushing duo.
4. Let’s flip sides of the ball and I want to start off talking about the edge rushers. Stopping the run has been a weakness for Trey Hendrickson. Is that still the case and how is Hubbard at defending the run?
Hubbard is probably one of the best run-stopping edge players we have. However, we really have to see what unit comes to play.
The first seven weeks we saw a defense where everyone was stopping the run and making tackles on the first point of contact. The past two weeks they played were filled with missed tackles, and Hendrickson was a big part of that.
Hopefully, the bye week has this team playing a bit more fresh.
5. A year ago, Jesse Bates was in the conversation for best safety in the league, but he’s struggled this year with about a 75 percent completion percentage allowed, just one interception and no PBUs, and nine missed tackles per PFF. What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed in Bates’ play this year compared to last year?
The missed tackles go along with the past two games. A vast majority came during that time.
It is really hard to say what is different though as part of the passing game. The defense has really gone out of its way to get pretty out there with concepts sometimes. There have been times where Bates plays closer to the line of scrimmage rather than the center field like we were used to seeing.
I’m still confident that he will get turned around, but it is very telling that he is off by just a little how bad this defense can be.