BENGALS Ts CORDY GLENN AND BOBBY HART VS. DOLPHINS DEs CAMERON WAKE AND ROBERT QUINN
The NFL's two most prolific sack tandems in the last seven seasons have a summit Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12; click here for tickets) at Paul Brown Stadium when the Dolphins' new duo of Wake and Quinn step on the turf of the Bengals' eight-year reign of Mr. Inside (Geno Atkins) and Mr. Outside (Carlos Dunlap).
Wake, the 36-year-old Energizer Bunny who has the fifth most sacks since 2012 with 65, is teamed with Quinn, signed back in March after posting 58.5 for the eighth most and giving Miami the lone Top 10 tandem. Atkins is tied for tenth on that list with Julius Peppers (54.5) and Dunlap is right behind them with 53.5.
Wake and Quinn are still looking to get their footing with one sack each in the first four games and there is concern in Miami that Wake won't play this week after not practicing Wednesday and Thursday. All eyes are on Glenn and Hart, a tackle tandem that proved to be as resilient and tough as any part of the Bengals' resourceful victory last Sunday in Atlanta.
Just like their team, Hart and Glenn struggled through adversity before making a stand on the final drive. Hart got bulled by Takk McKinley for two of his three sacks as the Falcons roared back into the lead and on the last drive Vic Beasley, Jr. got to Dalton twice beating Glenn around the edge. But after Beasley grabbed Dalton's arm for a dicey incomplete pass with 1:26 left, that was that.
Glenn later got called for a hands-to-the-face penalty, but the bottom line is that for the last eight snaps, the eight most important plays of the game, Dalton was unscathed.
"When they need you, that's when it's time to buck up and say 'I'm going to give him time,' and we did give him time," Hart says. "That's definitely a stepping stone and something to build on for us. We made some adjustments, but we just basically said we've got to lock it down and that's what we did."
It sums up the season-long effort of the revamped offensive line. At times it hasn't looked pretty, but here is the bottom line. They've blocked well enough that the Bengals are fourth in scoring, Dalton is tied for the second most touchdown passes in the league and last year's anemic running game is averaging one fuller yard at 4.5. Dalton has thrown the eighth most passes in the league and they've stood up to post the eighth fewest sacks per pass.
And, yes, 3-1 after two seasons of 2-4 starts.
"We know we have to tweak some things and make corrections. You can always improve," Glenn says. "(But) when the game is on the line, we did our jobs."
When they traded for Glenn before the draft, they were looking for a leader and stabilizing force up front and they've got him. Profootballfocus.com says he's allowed no sacks and just one hit of Dalton, but don't tell Bengals offensive line coach Frank Pollack because he prefers his own grades.
Plus, Glenn looks as advertised as a beast in the run game and he's flashing that leadership this week as he takes the 6-5, 318-pound Hart aside to counsel him on the 6-3, 263-pound Wake. Glenn faced the Dolphins twice a year for six seasons in Buffalo and while he says Wake was usually over the right tackle, he got him enough and was a part of enough game plans against the Dolphins to give Hart a scouting report.
Forget that Wake-Off sack safety of Dalton in the 2013 overtime game in Miami (line courtesy of Bengals radio play-by-play man Dan Hoard) because only one member of that offensive line that was victimized by Wake's stunt over right guard Kevin Zeitler is still here in left guard Clint Boling.
But Wake, a five-time Pro Bowler, is still at it in his 10th season.
"He gets a lot of sacks with effort. He's a good effort player," Glenn says. "He plays hard. He's got a good motor and good finishing moves. He's got some juice left."
The 6-4, 345-pound Glenn won't have a day at the beach in the 6-4, 257-pound Quinn. He says that it isn't even close, that Wake and Quinn are the fastest duo they've faced this season, "Hands down."
"He's a great athlete. Fast and lean," Glenn says of Quinn. "They have similar styles, but everyone is different. They're quick. They've got a good secondary and they've got good linebackers with Kiko (former Bills teammate Alonso). They've got talent on that side of the ball."
The Dolphins lead the league in interceptions, Alonso is the only backer in the league with 40 tackles and an interception and No. 1 pick Minkah Fitzpatrick is able to slip back into his slot position with the return of injured two-time Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones.
But with Wake hurting, backup defensive end Andre Branch surfacing on the injury report and 2015 second-round tackle Jordan Phillips whacked, the Bengals may be able to muscle the Dolphins up front.
Dalton has averaged 43 passes the last three games, a number that may wake up Wake. The night of his Wake-Off was the night Dalton threw 50 passes for the first time and he's 3-10-1 when he throws at least 43 passes.