This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns will take on the Cincinnati Bengals, and Brian Hoyer will get the start again in place of the injured Brandon Weeden. Can the Browns continue the momentum they built up last week against the Vikings?
To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Mickey Mentzer from Cincy Jungle and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry through three games this year. I realize that Green-Ellis isn't meant to be a home-run hitter, but that is still a steep decline from his career average of 3.9 yards per carry. Is Green-Ellis in decline, or is it more indicative of the Bengals' run blocking?"
Mickey: "I think there are a combination of things going wrong. At times, I want to blame the offensive line. It seems they are not creating the gaping holes we are used to. On the other hand, when Green-Ellis has been spelled by rookie Giovani Bernard, there have been major improvements in the run game.
Honestly, I think much of the reason the law firm has trouble picking up chunks of yards is because he is fairly one-dimensional. There is not the threat of a swing pass out of the backfield when he is in the game. However, with Bernard, the defense needs to be aware of his position as he is just as good of a pass catcher as he is in the running game. Therefore, I would argue that Green-Ellis' struggles are a result of his career declining as well as defenses just playing the run better against us."
Chris: "The Bengals added two new offensive weapons in the 2013 NFL Draft -- tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. Can you speak about how those two players have been utilized (i.e. in what situations), considering each of them has someone ahead of them on the depth chart?"
Mickey: "Tyler Eifert has already had some big plays in this offense. Monday night against the Steelers, he had a huge gain down the middle of the field. Much of what he brings though is the threat of what is possible. Most teams have decent tight ends. The Bengals have two outstanding tight ends. One is a Pro-Bowler, and the other is a rookie who is already pushing the Pro-Bowler. Defenses need to be aware of Eifert on the field and can not assume he is in to block. The kid showcased his hands at Notre Dame and continues to produce in the NFL.
Giovani Bernard has shown Bengals fans how special of a talent he can be. He scored twice in the Pittsburgh game and then again in the Green Bay game. His run against the Packers that ended with a twisting dive into the endzone was incredible. He is the home run type of running back who can create a huge play anytime he touches the ball. We are pumped to have a guy like him who compliments the hard-charging style of Green-Ellis."
Chris: "Cincinnati's defense was 3rd in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt in 2012, but through three games this year, they rank 25th in that category. Is there a reason the Bengals are getting to the quarterback less often?"
Mickey: "The lack of sacks is upsetting to many Bengals fans. Much of the questioning has been around Geno Atkins. Some fans are worried that now that he has his huge contract signed, he is not performing as well. I think it is that offenses are game-planning around him and he faces double teams on every play. The Bengals have the kind of defensive line that will continue to pressure opposing quarterbacks, so eventually the sacks will come. There will be that game that they explode for seven sacks and the ship will be right. I am hoping it is this weekend in Cleveland."
Chris: "Browns fans share a great amount of disdain for linebacker James Harrison, and I don't think that will change now that he has on the Bengals. After playing a lot of snaps in Week 1, his playing time has decreased significantly over the past two weeks. Is he getting buried on the depth chart, and was the expectation (heading into the season) for the type of contributions he'd make this year?"
Mickey: "Up until this year, we shared that disdain. James Harrison is no longer the disruptive force he once was for the Steelers. On the Bengals' defense, he is a bit-player on the bigger machine. What he has brought is attitude and it seems to be working for guys like Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga.
The expectation of some fans was that he would come in and make this defense significantly better. Others thought he was meant to be a fill-in guy on the backside of his career. I was in the latter -- I love the attitude he brings to the team, and I was excited that we would not have to see him in that hideous black and yellow any more.
But seriously, as a Browns fan, you have to love the clip of him slamming the moron to the turf who decided to run on the field, right?"
Chris: "Tell us about a player on the Bengals who Browns fans might not be aware of, but could have a significant impact on the outcome of this Sunday's game."
Mickey: "This is a tough one; with the Bengals being on Hard Knocks, many of our players are pretty well known. The guy I will offer up is George Iloka. The second year safety for the Bengals has really been playing well this season. The reason I think he makes a difference on Sunday is the fact that he may be a key player in disrupting the outstanding Jordan Cameron. Last week, Cameron went off for three touchdowns and was a major force for the Browns.
Iloka was key in covering over the top for Aaron Rodgers' passing game and played admirably. I think he will have the same effect on Sunday in covering the Browns' passing game, and I hope he keeps Cameron quiet."
Thanks again to Mickey for taking the time to answer my questions.