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Thursday, June 12, 2014
Bengals factoid: Opposing QBs vs. pressure

By Coley Harvey

One of the hallmarks of the Cincinnati Bengals' defense last season was its ability to put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

As expected, the statistics show that more often than not, when pressure was applied, good things happened for the defense.

So that brings us to Thursday's Bengals factoid: 0.82.

When opposing offenses felt pressure from Bengals defenders in passing situations last season, they gained on average just 0.82 yards per dropback. In this case, a dropback consists of a passing attempt, a sack, a scramble or a spike. So whenever an opposing quarterback did any one of those things on a passing play when he was pressured, his offense averaged a gain of only 0.82 yards.

Only one defense had a better yards per dropback average. Carolina's defense allowed just 0.51 yards per dropback last season. On the other end of the spectrum was Dallas, which gave up 3.84 yards.

While pressure begins with a strong push at the line of scrimmage by the defensive linemen, it's typically the speed and athleticism of a gap-blitzing secondary player that can throw an unsuspecting quarterback off his rhythm. Naturally, the best and most conventional way to beat the majority of blitzes is to dump off short screens if players are open enough for that to happen. By the nature of the distance screens are supposed to travel, though, very few yards are gained on those completions, unless the defense has enough holes in it that big chunk yards can be gained after the catch. Assuming those holes don't exist, though, screen receptions also can affect an offense's ability to gain yards on a defense that applies regular pressure.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bengals applied pressure on 159 dropbacks last season. Within those, opposing quarterbacks had 108 passing attempts with only 36 completions, resulting in a 33.3 percent completion rating against the pressure. Much like the yards per dropback average, only one team had a lower completion rating. Pittsburgh's defense allowed opposing teams to complete just 30.2 percent of their passes.

All of this is to demonstrate how good the Bengals were in certain passing situations last season. That success all came with Mike Zimmer in charge of the defensive unit. Now, he's no longer here. Zimmer left his post as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator in January to fill Minnesota's head-coaching vacancy. He may be gone, but the architect behind many of those pressure schemes, ex-linebackers coach Paul Guenther, is still here. Right after Zimmer left, Guenther stepped in to replace him.

The types of pressures Guenther will keep or add remains to be seen, but his goal is easily identifiable. He wants to continue getting defenders in the opposing quarterback's face.