Good morning, BoltFam! I hope all is well with you and your loved ones. The Chargers invite the AFC North division leading Cincinnati Bengals to Qualcomm stadium for what is another must-win game for San Diego. I thought it would be cool to get an inside scoop from a solid Bengals writer. It didn’t take long for me to decide on who to approach for this interview.
Jason Marcum is the Senior Editor for StripeHype.com. He is a solid writer that is very knowledgeable about the Bengals and all of the NFL. I’d like to thank Jason in advance for taking the time to do this interview. When I received his answers back to my questions, it turns out that he had some questions of his own regarding an interview for his site.
Without further ado, here is my Q & A session with Jason Marcum of StripeHype.com.
1. All over Social media I see NFL fans and Bengals fans alike tearing up Andy Dalton. Although I see some of what they’re talking about when I’ve watched some of his games, he seems to put up good numbers. What’s the deal with Dalton?
JM: He’s far too inconsistent for their liking. He plays like an elite quarterback in October and wins the AFC Offensive player of the month, then can’t get out of his own way in November, throwing 8 interceptions in the past three games. He just needs to be more consistent and not play so erratic. If he can help lead the Bengals to an AFC North title, the fans will lighten-up on him.
2. We here at BoltBlitz were big supporters of Gio Bernard coming out of college. Tell us about how he is used in the offense and what the Charger defense will have to do to contain him.
JM: He looks just like Maurice Jones-Drew did in his rookie year. He’s a jitterbug that uses his low center of gravity to make even the best tacklers miss in space, and his addition has helped the Bengals offense become much more efficient in 2012. His 464 yards on just 104 carries and 42 receptions for 345 yards has kept the offense moving, even when Dalton has played poorly. He’ll likely begin to get more touches going forward as the games become more important. He’s going to be a star soon enough.
3. When I was a staff writer for a different site prior to starting BoltBlitz.com, I wrote that the Chargers should take a flyer on Vontaze Burfict in the 5th round. He, obviously, went undrafted. Talk about his role on the team and his impact on the field.
JM: He’s been the best defensive player for the Bengals this year. He’s got a nose for the football that helps him disrupt or make plays as often as a Bengals linebacker has since Takeo Spikes was still wearing stripes. He needs to improve his coverage skills though, and I’m worried Chargers tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green will expose that weakness.
4. The Bengal defense was so solid and then you lost both Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. How has the defense been performing since, and which players have been inserted in their places?
JM: Brandon Thompson has filled-in very well for Atkins, and his run defense has been arguably just as good. His pass-rushing ability isn’t as good, but Atkins is one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles you’ll ever see.
As for Hall, it’s been more of a committee approach. Terence Newman and Adam Jones play most of the snaps at cornerback, while Brandon Ghee, Dre Kirkpatrick and Chris Crocker rotate into that nickelback spot.
It’s worth pointing out since Hall went down, the Bengals have faced the Jets, Dolphins, Ravens and Browns. Not exactly a murder’s row of passing attacks, and the loss of Hall could finally be exposed on Sunday against one of the NFL’s best passing offenses in San Diego.
5. Is there any way on God’s green Earth that the Chargers can stop A.J. Green? After a big game to start the season against Chicago, he had a run of average performances. He had more than his share of big games following that run too, but Cleveland managed to hold him to 7 yards receiving. What can teams do to limit Green?
JM: Yes. Just double-team him. He’ll get discouraged and not play as hard if he’s getting constantly double-teamed. It’s up to Dalton and the other receiver to force the Chargers out of those double-teams to free-up Green. Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu have to step-up and draw those Chargers DBs away from Green, or he’ll have another sub par performance.
6. Marvin Jones has had a solid year as an under-the-radar player. What kind of skill set does he bring to the table?
JM: He’s a good route-runner and can make some tough catches i traffic and around defenders. But he also is prone to dropping some easy passes that kills drives, and he’s still working to become a complete receiver. But he’s shown enough to make me believe he’ll eventually become a legitimate sidekick alongside Green.
7. Fill in the blank: For the Chargers to beat the Bengals they must_________________.
JM: Beat the blitz. The Bengals are going to bring the house against the Chargers banged-up offensive line. If Rivers can beat the blitz and hit the open man consistently, he’ll have a field day.
On defense, just pressure Dalton and keep Giovani Bernard contained. When the offense is reliant on Dalton’s arm, it struggles. They’re at their best when they’re ahead or within one score and can keep their run-pass ratio balanced.
8. I was an big fan of the Cincinnati 2012 draft class ( Dre Kirkpatrick, Kevin Zeitler, Devon Still, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Thompson, Orson Charles, Shaun Prater, Marvin Jones, George Iloka ). Who has already stood out from that class and which player has the most upside?
JM: Iloka has really stood out. He’s really stepped-up and become a solid starting safety in his second season, and to get that kind of player in the fifth round is a nice steal.
I think Thompson has the highest upside. He’s playing great right now and should continue to develop more going forward for the reason’s mentioned previously.
9. Final question…. Give everyone your prediction for tomorrow’s game and why the victor will get the win?
JM: I’ve gone back-and-forth on this more than any game this year other than the Bears game, and that was the first game. 13 weeks later, I’m not real sure what to make of this game, but that’s more because of recent injuries to key players for both teams. Vontaze Burfict sprained his ankle in practice Friday and may not play. King Dunlap is probably out for you guys, meaning it will be even easier to pressure Rivers on Sunday. In the end, at home and playing for their playoff lives, I think San Diego pulls this one out late by a 27-24 score.
Thanks again to Jason and be sure to check out StripeHype.com for his interview with me regarding the game.