CINCINNATI — Zac Taylor must adapt. It's no secret that Taylor likes throwing the ball. The Bengals have thrown on nearly 66% of their offensive plays this season.
That strategy makes sense when you have a rookie phenom under center. Joe Burrow is special. His ability to hide the Bengals' flaws was clear.
With Burrow out for the season, it's up to Taylor to adjust his game plan starting on Sunday in Miami.
The Bengals have to run the ball early and often against the Dolphins. Joe Mixon will miss his sixth-straight game with a foot injury, but that doesn't matter.
A three-headed monster of Giovani Bernard, Semaje Perine and Trayveon Williams is more than serviceable.
Good coaches adapt their play-calling and game plan to their personnel.
Having Brandon Allen throw the ball three times more (29-9) than you hand it off to your trio running backs is a recipe for disaster. It's exactly what Taylor did last week.
The game was close and yet the Bengals operated like Burrow was under center.
The Dolphins are allowing 4.8 yards-per-carry this season, which is tied with the Bengals and Chargers for the second-most in the NFL.
Miami has two elite cornerbacks and a quality pass rush. Running the ball could help neutralize those two strengths.
The Bengals need to put their five best offensive linemen out there on Sunday. With starting right guard Alex Redmond likely out after suffering a concussion last week, Xavier Su'a-Filo should be in the lineup.
The Bengals activated the 29-year-old on Wednesday. He hasn't played since Week 1 due to a foot injury, but he's 100% healthy and ready to contribute.
"I’m excited to be brought back up. Whatever role, it’s not determined yet for me, but I’ll be prepared," Su'a-Filo said this week. "I came here for a reason, to play. I believe I can help the room and help the line. Whoever is in there its their job to step up and make sure they are playing well and doing good. Not being able to be out there has been hard."
A starting offensive line (from left to right) of Jonah Williams, Quinton Spain, Trey Hopkins, Su'a-Filo and Bobby Hart should be able to create plenty of push in the run game.
Taylor has no choice but to adjust his game plan. He has a lot to prove over the next five weeks.
Burrow had success prior to his injury, but that doesn't mean Taylor should be back in 2021. Good coaches adapt to their personnel. They find ways to stay competitive, even after dealing with significant injuries.
The Bengals need to run the ball 20+ times against the Dolphins.
That doesn't mean they have to run it up the gut right on every play. Taylor can get creative.
Implementing reverses, screens and pre-snap motion should help. And to his credit, he's done some of those things this season.
Allen is going to have to throw the ball, but the world knows he isn't Burrow. No one expects him to perform to that level.
It's up to Taylor to tailor his offense to Allen. He has no choice but to rely on his running backs this week.
The second-year head coach is 4-22-1 since taking over for Marvin Lewis in 2019. Beating Miami on Sunday would be a signature victory and Taylor's first road win.
The Bengals are going to have to run the ball if they're going to pull off the upset.
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