Scouting Report: Bengals vs. Eagles
BENGALS (0-2) vs. EAGLES (0-2)
The Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) visit Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) on Sunday afternoon.
Cincinnati, which last fell to the Browns on Thursday Night Football, will be coming off an extended rest with ample time to prepare for the Eagles. Though rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow has been battered over the first two weeks, he will be seeking his first professional win following two gut-wrenching losses.
The Eagles have struggled to establish cohesion on both sides of the ball but will look to right the ship against a young Bengals team also trying to avoid an 0-3 start.
Eagles To Watch On Offense
RB Miles Sanders: Aside from the fumble, Sanders performed well in his first game back from injury, totaling 95 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. The Bengals are light on numbers along the interior, so I anticipate Jason Kelce and Nate Herbig generating a strong push up front – which should get Sanders in an early rhythm.
The Eagles would be wise to utilize Sanders’ receiving prowess, as there will be opportunities to exploit the Bengals' slow-footed second level and cornerbacks who have an aversion to tackling. WR DeSean Jackson: While Jackson saw his snap count increase in Week 2, he will need to be an even bigger part of the offense. He will likely draw William Jackson III in coverage, but there should be opportunities to get over the top. Jackson III is a smart corner with terrific length and plus ball skills but doesn’t process particularly quickly and at times lacks eye discipline. TE Zach Ertz: Both Eagles tight ends should rebound nicely against the Bengals but look for Carson Wentz to get Ertz going early. Ertz, the most quarterback friendly option in the Eagles’ passing attack, has gotten off to a slow start. That should change on Sunday.
Eagles To Watch On Defense
DT Javon Hargrave: The Bengals field one of the league’s worst offensive lines, particularly along the interior. With Fletcher Cox potentially missing Sunday’s contest due to injury, the Eagles’ prized free-agent signing must elevate his play by pushing the pocket and moving Burrow off his spot, maintaining gap discipline, and disrupting the Bengals’ execution.
LB T.J. Edwards: Cincinnati’s offensive line struggles to generate much push in the running game. Running back Joe Mixon is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 57.5 yards per game through the first two weeks. The run-game deficiencies have forced Burrow to go through the air, effectively making the offense one-dimensional. The Eagles struggled with misdirection against the Rams, largely due to insufficient gap discipline and over-pursuit. If Mixon manages to get into a rhythm early, it opens up the playbook for Burrow. Edwards is the team’s most effective run-down linebacker, so his ability to rapidly diagnose plays will be paramount.
NCB Nickell Robey-Coleman: Through two games, Robey-Coleman has surrendered nine completions on nine targets for 102 yards and a touchdown. On Sunday, he will likely match up against Tyler Boyd, who leads all Bengals pass-catchers with 133 snaps, has a knack for finding the soft spots in zone, making the contested catches in traffic, and picking up yards after the catch. Robey-Coleman must do a better job of match-and-mirror coverage, affecting the catch-point along with open-field tackling.
The Eagles’ coverage units have done an exceptional job at bottling up Steven Sims Jr. and Nsimba Webster in successive weeks, but Sunday will put Dave Fipp’s group to the test.
Third phase ace Rudy Ford is listed as week-to-week with a groin injury. With Craig James toiling on injured reserve, the team will be missing both gunners in a game in which there is little margin for error.
Bengals’ kick returner Brandon Wilson, who finished sixth in the NFL in return yardage last season (625), is averaging 43.7 yards on three returns through two weeks. Wilson is more of a north-south returner with terrific acceleration, while punt returner Alex Erickson relies on decisiveness and vision.
Marcus Epps, who has shown well on special teams, will be a player to watch. The second-year safety currently leads the Eagles with 49 special teams snaps, accounting for over 84 percent of the total.
Philadelphia hosts Cincinnati at Lincoln Financial Field for just the third time in the all-time series and the first time since 2012. Sunday marks the 14th meeting between the two franchises.
The Eagles are 23-10 (.697) at home in the regular season at home under Doug Pederson, which is tied for the sixth-best home winning percentage since 2016.
Bengals WR Tyler Boyd: Boyd, among the league’s premier slot receivers, represents a matchup nightmare for a team that was just gouged over the middle against the Rams. The 25-year-old leads the Bengals with 11 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets and appears to be establishing an early rapport with Burrow.
Robey-Coleman, who measures at 5-foot-7, will have his hands full defending the 6-foot-2, 203-pound Boyd. The Pitt product is a savvy route runner who that creates separation at the top of his patterns and is tremendously smooth in and out of breaks. Boyd can play inside or outside, but given the matchup, he’ll likely see most of his snaps from the slot. I expect Burrow to look to his security blanket early and often.
Eagles TE Dallas Goedert: Although the Bengals boast two rookie linebackers who were among the top of their class in pass coverage, they’ve been using them sparingly on defense. Instead, veteran Josh Bynes and second-year pro Germaine Pratt predominantly patrol the second level. Bynes, in particular, is slow-footed in coverage and lacks overall awareness, but the Bengals’ linebacker tandem doesn't have the requisite range to stick with Goedert down the seam.
The Eagles, who were in 12 personnel nearly 80 percent of the time against the Rams, will likely stick to a similar game plan because of Jalen Reagor being sidelined.
The Bengals offensive line has surrendered six sacks and allowed 52 pressures over the first two games – the third-most in the NFL. Right tackle Bobby Hart, responsible for six sacks of his own in 2019, is the unit’s primary culprit while left tackle Jonah Williams will be making his third NFL start after missing all of his rookie season with a shoulder injury.
While much has been made about the lack of interior pressure from Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Malik Jackson, Sunday’s matchup presents a prime opportunity to get recharged. Even if Cox – who has been dealing with an abdominal injury this week – is unavailable, the interior presence is formidable enough to generate penetration consistently. Left guard Michael Jordan and center Trey Hopkins have struggled against explosive defensive tackles with urgent get-offs.
Fred Johnson is expected to make his second consecutive start at right guard in place of the injured Xavier Su’a-Filo. The second-year pro allowed a team-high seven pressures and a sack against the Browns.
Defensively, the Bengals could be without two veteran defensive linemen in Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels, who are nursing shoulder and groin injuries, respectively. However, Cincinnati boasts a vast array of pass rushers, including Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader, Carl Lawson, and Christian Covington.
Earlier this week, Doug Pederson mentioned the possibility of moving Nate Herbig to left guard in place of injured Isaac Seumalo and deploying Matt Pryor at right guard – something to monitor as game day nears.
A motivated Joe Burrow should come out firing and face little resistance moving the football, but a veteran-laden Eagles team should execute well enough to avoid an 0-3 start. Eagles 27, Bengals 17
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network. Listen to more Bengals vs. Eagles preview in the latest "Inside The Birds podcast" right here: