I have to be out of the house for much of the day, so one Matchup post today and tomorrow I'll post a lot more content. Whee..!
One thing you don't want to hear facing one of the most potent offenses in football is that your star free agent pickup, the veteran end that anchors your pass rush is facing a losing matchup, but that's the case. Of course few players could reasonably be expected to win against the Crushinator Willie Anderson, but take heart, Mr. Fatburger perennially makes a case for best right offensive tackle in all of football. Patrick Kerney should feel no shame getting clobbered by the big man. His saving grace might be Anderson's injured foot, but injury prognostication is an iffy gambit so I'll leave that to someone else. Still, it puts the onus of disrupting the pass on second year man Darryl Tapp and Rocky Bernard.
Let's concentrate on Bernard versus Bobby Williams. Williams hails from one of the beefiest tackle drafts in history. A draft that also produced Marvel Smith, Chad Clifton and 4 Bills Stockar McDougle. Williams is of the same ilk, big and strong as hell. Williams is one the premier reasons that the Bengals consistently feature one of the best rushing attacks in football. Sorry Rudi Johnson, never been a fan. The other being the synergistic relationship between the rushing and passing game in the NFL. We're getting a little far afield though, so back to Williams. The Bengals ranked 1st in 2006 and 3rd in 2005 at running behind right tackle and Johnson's power rushing reputation starts with Anderson/Williams. A particularly innovative defensive coordinator might even choose to switch his tackles and have his nose tackle work off the right side. I honestly don't think Chuck Darby would be any more effective than Bernard at stuffing the run, but it's certainly worth consideration given their respective roles. So first let us cure ourselves of any illusion, Bernard isn't going to be holding the point against the Bengals rotund right side.
What he can, almost must, do is be able to slice into the Bengals backfield with consistency. Williams is a mauler of the first order, but he's also slow out of the blocks and a sloppy technician. When he can't meet his man off the snap, he lacks the quickness and motor to catch up. Consider last year's matchup against former Buc now Hawk Ellis Wyms. Wyms has a similar style to Bernard, explosive off the blocks; an attacking one gap tackle. Wyms, a journeyman, was the star of Tampa's upset. His secret, get a step on Williams. Williams is a load taken head on, but if you can beat him off the snap, get to his inside shoulder, he has a bad habit of falling off blocks. Wyms terrorized Williams all day, not just notching a pair of sacks, but two tackles for a loss. Bernard can do likewise, and I'm not selling tickets here, but the Twelfth Man can help. Whatever hesitation Qwest's crowd noise can engender, the better chance Bernard has of creating some desperately needed inside pressure.
Williams has a weird record pass defending. In 2004 he allowed 7.25 sacks, in 2006, 7, but between those years he allowed only half a sack in 2005. He's not thought of as a tremendously quick or skillful pass blocker, nor, at 30, should he be expected to take a great leap forward. But the meat and muscle throughout the Bengals line has to frighten the Seahawks hopeful. The Seattle line is quick, quick but also small, and as stout as irradiated Coors Light. Rocky Bernard could fly through Williams, using his speed, tenaciousness and technique to disrupt the Bengals' passing attack. He could also be disappeared like a Russian journalist. His play is vital though, because given time little doubt exists that the Bengals' two all-world wide receivers will victimize our secondary. If the offensive line's timing is off, thanks to a healthy Qwest roar and Seattle's fleet footed tackle rotation, the Hawks defensive line should fly through Cincy's O like a Fatburger through a healthy man. But if the Bengals wall-of-man O-Line punishes the Hawks D-Line like an out of weight-class boxer, expect our secondary to look as limp, nasty and distasteful as the Silver Bullet.