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Behind Enemy Lines: An Inside Look at the Cincinnati Bengals



NASHVILLE, Tenn. –**The Titans face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.

The Titans are coming off a 23-20 win over the Ravens, and currently have a 5-3 record.

The Bengals are coming off a 23-7 loss to the Jaguars, and they're now 3-5. 

This week, I caught up with Geoff Hobson, who covers the Bengals for Hobson is in his 18th season with the team, and he's covered the Bengals for 28 years in all. You can follow Geoff on Twitter @GeoffHobsonCin, and join over 23,000 others.

Here's how our conversation went … 

Wyatt: Hey Geoff. Great to talk to you, and I appreciate you doing this. Right out of the gate, I want to ask you about what's gone right and what's gone wrong for the Bengals at the midway point of the season. Looking at the stats I see the team is 32nd overall in total offense, and 6th on defense. What have been some of the highlights and lowlights?

Hobson: Well, what's gone right is they play pretty solid defense. The defense is going to keep them in games. And for the most part, they have played pretty well on defense. The team has those four first-round cornerbacks – Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard. Dennard plays the slot, and they keep a pretty good rotation going at corner. The big thing is I think 17 guys have played at least 30 percent of the snaps, and up front they rotate a lot of guys. They are getting a lot out of their rookie pass rushers – Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis. But on offense they have struggled. They revamped the offensive line and it just hasn't worked. They haven't been last in the league in offense in a long time, and that's where the team is ranked now. The last time they finished last in the league on offense was 2008 when Carson Palmer missed a dozen games. But they haven't been able to run the ball whatsoever. The problem is there has been a lot of heat on quarterback Andy Dalton – he is on track to get sacked 48 times after getting sacked 41 times last year. They haven't had tight end Tyler Eifert, who is on Injured Reserve. And John Ross, the first-round pick at wide receiver, has played 11 snaps. He hasn't been active. They've had a lot of problems on offense.

Wyatt: I've looked at Dalton's numbers – 148-of-236 for 1,739 yards, with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a passer rating of 86.5. I've seen worse. How much is the ranking – last in the NFL on offense – on him?   

Hobson: *Well, he didn't play well in the first couple of games, but since then I think he has held up his end of the bargain, but it is hard to tell because he has been pressured and he hasn't had much time. And I mentioned Eifert has been out and Ross hasn't been playing. Well, A.J. Green has had the worst three-game stretch of his career. He has three catches, three catches and one catch his last three games, and he has never done that. *

Wyatt: Speaking of Green, I guess everyone has seen the fight last week with Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. How out of character was that for Green? And did you think he'd get suspended?

Hobson: *Yeah, I think there was some fear that he'd get suspended, which would have really put them in a hole. But he is struggling, too. Basically, when you can't run the ball and you don't have Eifert and you look at your other pool of receivers, teams are going to take A.J. away, and they have done that. I have never seen him have a stretch like that. As far as his emotions go, it was very uncharacteristic. I know Ramsey is known for getting under the skin of guys, but you never see A.J. do what he did. I think it was probably a combination of Ramsey kind of being a competitive guy, and A.J. is probably dealing with frustration as well. *

Wyatt: How about a guy people in Tennessee are certainly familiar with – Adam "Pacman" Jones. Pacman was a first-round draft pick here in 2005, and I have to give him credit – this is 2017, and he's still in the league. He's had a nice career. How is he doing? And do you think he's excited about returning to Nashville to play?

Hobson: I think he felt pretty connected to Jeff Fisher, so now that there is a new regime there, I am sure it will mean something to him, but let's face it: There's a lot of water that's gone under the bridge there. I still remember when the Bengals played in 2005 down there, and a rookie Adam Jones, if I am not mistaken, had back-to-back pass interference penalties trying to cover Chad Johnson in a game the Bengals win. So that was a long time ago. Adam is playing in a rotation now – he is splitting time with William Jackson. And we are kind of waiting to see if he's going to return more punts. He is still a factor in the defense, but the Bengals have been rotating other guys. He plays outside. He played 60 percent of the snaps (vs. Jacksonville). So he is sharing the load with other guys.

Wyatt: You've covered the Bengals since 1990. So you've seen a lot of Oilers/Titans vs. Bengals games over the years. Anything stand out from some of those games?

Hobson: *Oh, man. So many games I remember, and I remember how physical those games were. Eddie George pounding out yards against the Bengals, and I remember the Corey Dillion game in 1997 when he set the rookie rushing record (with 246 yards). I think about the first game ever at Adelphia Stadium, when Steve McNair led the Titans back and Al Del Greco kicked the game-winning field goal. They always seemed to play watershed games against each other. The Dillon game I mentioned, the 1994 game when Jeff Blake had his first home win and Carl Pickens had something like 13 catches. I think Jack Pardee got fired after that game when the Bengals hit a kick at the gun. That 1999 game when the Titans came back to win after being nine down, that sent them off on their run during their Super Bowl season. What would have happened of the Bengals had pulled that game out? I don't think they would have gone 3-13. They might not have gone to the Super Bowl, but they wouldn't have gone 3-13 either, and would they have ended up drafting Akili Smith? I remember Andy Dalton won a huge game in Nashville in 2011, and that ended up being the win that got the Bengals in the playoffs, when Dalton and Green were rookies. So it has always been an important game.  *

Wyatt: So how important is this game for the Bengals at the start of the second half of the season?

Hobson: It's big. The Bengals are in the middle of a stretch of three straight on the road against AFC teams. The team just played in Jacksonville (and lost), now it's Tennessee and then at Denver. So they'll know where they stand when they get back to Cincinnati the night of November 19. A lot of teams are bunched up now, so the Bengals need to start winning games. They are running out of time against AFC teams. They're kind of getting into that must-game mode, so this is a big one.

Titans Online looks back at the all-time series with the Cincinnati Bengals. (AP Photos)

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