Interview With Joe Goodberry
Every week, I’ll have the pleasure of grabbing a few words from somebody who covers the other side of things. With the Bengals playing host to the Steelers, I was gracious enough to connect with Joe Goodberry, who covers the NFL Draft and the Bengals for The Athletic. Follow Joe on Twitter @JoeGoodberry for more Bengals/draft coverage and a slight dose of movies/comics/action figures for those nerds out there.
DD: The Bengals currently sit atop the AFC North with a 4-1 record. What do you see as the main differences between this year’s team and teams of years past?
JG: The biggest difference is they’re getting better quarterback play. Look back at 2015 when the team started 5-0 and had a couple of comeback wins just like this season — that was Andy Dalton’s best year. They had a good coordinator, weapons galore and a top offensive line. Things crumbled from there and the past two seasons have been a struggle offensively. The offensive line has been turned over and the weapons replenished. Those factors, plus the coaching of Bill Lazor and Alex Van Pelt have Andy Dalton returning to peak form. When you get good quarterback play, you have a chance to win any game.
DD: Cincinnati currently has the 4th ranked offense, scoring 30.6 points per game. What’s been the most notable factor of this offense?
JG: They’re scheming guys open instead of asking their players to win one on one. Even top-end talents like AJ Green is enjoying the benefits of playing in the slot where he’s averaging more yards per route than any other receiver in the league (by a full yard). When the passing game has hit bumps, running back Joe Mixon has taken over and his talent can be undeniable at times.
DD: The Bengals play host to Pittsburgh in what should be another tough match-up within the division. Cincinnati was able to pull some big wins out against Atlanta and Miami, but is this the biggest test for the Bengals thus far?
JG: Easily the biggest test because it’s a mental hurdle for the Bengals. The Steelers are the bullies and it makes the Bengals play in a way they don’t normally act. They attempt to match the Pittsburgh toughness and bravado and they end up spilling over the top in emotion because it’s not who they are normally. The result has been epic collapses and games that have gotten out of hand.
DD: What are some individual match-ups you believe can determine the outcome of the game?
JG: From the Bengals’ side, AJ Green against anybody (including Joe Haden) is an opportunity to move the football and potentially score. Cincinnati will move him around and try to create mismatches and get him the ball. If Green has a good game, the Bengals offense will have a good game.
On the other side, Cincinnati will hope that William Jackson can continue to give Antonio Brown his toughest test, but as Pittsburgh moves him around the formation, Jackson won’t follow.
DD: If the Bengals are able to accomplish (blank), they will win the football game.
JG: If the Bengals can create turnovers on defense, they’ll win the football game. In three of their four wins, they needed a turnover on defense at a crucial time and got it. In the game they lost, the defense couldn’t produce that game-changing play. Their defensive line has to get pressure and the back-end has to capitalize on mistakes. If they do, they win.