PFF Preview: Bengals @ Ravens, Week 1
The first of a dozen AFC North divisional matches, the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Baltimore looking to defend the division crown. The Bengals’ roster is very similar to that of last year’s 11-5 club. The biggest loss will be that of Michael Johnson to the Buccaneers, though that should be more than made up for by the return of a healthy Geno Atkins who missed half of last season with a torn ACL. Atkins topped our grades for defensive tackles back in 2012 with an otherworldly +73.6. Even if he’s not 100%, Atkins should still be a difference-maker on Sunday.
While on the field this team will be much the same, it’s off the field where dramatic changes were made during the offseason as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden departed for head coaching jobs. With a new offensive coordinator and an inconsistent quarterback, the Bengals couldn’t have drawn a much tougher assignment than the Ravens’ defense. Headed by playmaking outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore has one of the most sound and balanced defensive rosters anywhere. It’s no secret that Andy Dalton struggles mightily under pressure, so it will be interesting to see if new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson relies on a quick passing attack as much as his predecessor — Dalton averaged 2.43 seconds to throw last year, second quickest behind Peyton Manning.
The Ravens also have a new offensive coordinator in tow, hiring on Gary Kubiak to replace Jim Caldwell. Unlike the change in Cincinnati, this can only be seen as a positive, as Caldwell’s offense last season was one of the worst in the league. Will there be growing pains for both clubs this Sunday? It’s certainly possible, but the talent for both clubs should overshadow any doubts that this won’t be an excellent rivalry game.
Andy Dalton – Dalton graded at +2.0 or higher five times last year, but graded below -2.0 six times. He was -4.7 combined in two games against Baltimore. Not exactly the model of consistency.
Geno Atkins – The last time Atkins was shut out as a pass rusher? Week 5 of 2011, where Atkins failed to record any pressure.
Terrell Suggs – Led the team in 2013 with 50 stops. Almost more impressive is he did it while accruing only four missed tackles, a feat considering he played 925 snaps last year.
Joe Flacco – Two of his four worst grades last year came against the Bengals. On passes aimed over 20 yards in the air, Flacco went 0-for-11 with two interceptions.
Gino Gradkowski – Poor work in pass protection earned him a -15.6 grade last year, but he has been strong so far this preseason — Only two hurries given up and a +5.9 overall grade.
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