BENGALS QB ANDY DALTON VS. JETS S JAMAL ADAMS
Adams is the current rage of the pro football focus.com sect with all 6.5 of his sacks coming in the last four games and the folks in New York tell you that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is using him much like the Steelers used the great Troy Polamalu. Williams' exotic schemes and Adams' productive versatility are just some of the reasons Bengals head coach Zac Taylor chose to go back to Dalton's experience Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) as the Jets bring in their three-game winning streak.
Dalton, 32, is actually old enough to have played against Polamalu, eligible this year for first ballot validation in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dalton sees the similarities, although the 6-1, 213-pound Adams has the size over the 5-10, 207-pound Polamalu. But they both roam the field more like a linebacker than a safety.
"With Troy, he was so smart and understood exactly what they were doing on defense and how offenses were trying to attack," Dalton says. "Jamal is similar. He can start down (toward the line of scrimmage) and run out to the half (of the field he's covering), and he can do all the different things that Troy did."
Williams usually saves his crazy stuff on third down, when the blitz can come from anywhere and that means Adams left, Adams right, Adams up the A Gap. His surge began three weeks ago when he wrecked Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in the first half with a sack-strip TD on a third-and-one blitz and then later hopping over the pile to stop Jones' fourth-and-one sneak. Then the next week against another rookie quarterback, Washington's Dwayne Haskins, Adams lined up on the edge 14 times and rushed 13 times for three sacks and a QB hit as Haskins barely completed 50 percent of his passes.
Taylor made sure Adams wouldn't be able to feast on his third rookie in four games when he turned from Ryan Finley to Dalton and his 128 starts full of flashbacks. Dalton avoided the big play against Polamalu, getting sacked by him once and not throwing an interception. But it was Polamalu's force in the run game that had an impact on his 4-2 record against Dalton with five tackles for loss and 34 total tackles in those six games.
Dalton has won more games against Adams' coordinator, Williams, coming off two seasons in Cleveland after a stint in St. Louis. (Not only is Dalton old enough to have played Polamalu, but he has a win over the St. Louis Rams.) He's 3-1 against Williams' defenses with a 120.5 passer rating coming out of 10 touchdown passes and two interceptions.
But that's when he had wide receiver A.J. Green and Dalton knows Williams never had Adams.
"He's one of the best, if not the best, safety in the league," Dalton says. "He plays all over the place. He's down, he's deep, he plays halves, he plays in the middle of the field – he really does it all. I wouldn't say it's easy to compare, 'Well this is exactly how he did it in Cleveland, exactly how he did it when I faced him when he was in St. Louis.'"
And that's exactly what Jets head coach Adam Gase is counting on.
"I think Gregg has a bottomless pit of ideas and things he's done in the past. He's had so many different styles of players that I think it benefits our defense, because there are so many things that he can pull up that's either new to other teams that he hasn't done in a while that he's done in the past," Gase said this week in a conference call with the Cincinnati media.
"He really has found ways to be creative in helping put Jamal in the right spots and then Jamal does a great job of executing what's called. He's the type of guy who makes the play. A lot of times you see a guy get freed up and there's a missed tackle or a guy takes a wrong angle. Jamal does a really good job of finishing plays."
What really concerns the Bengals coaches about Adams is not where he lines up, but the problems he presents when he gets to the point of his blitz. Because in the last month, when he blitzes, he gets there. They've isolated the clip where Adams threw away Giants running back Saquon Barkley as if he were a toy on that sack-strip TD.
He's not only strong enough and fast enough to defeat running backs in blitz pickup, but his technique makes it twice as difficult to defend him. One of Sunday's sub-plots is third-down running back Giovani Bernard (6-1, 205 pounds) matched up against Adams.
"He's a physical blitzer. He's a fast blitzer. He plays fast," says Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. "He's a matchup problem really for any receiver or running back that's trying to block him, in the run game or the pass game. You do your best to try to keep those guys out of there and every now and again they've got to swell up. He's a good player. He's really good.
"Gio does a lot of things well and blitz pick up might be near the top ... one of the things he does very well is pass protection. He'll go strike guys. He's small in stature but not in play strength and technique. He's really good in the protection game. That will be a good matchup to see. I'm sure they'll meet each other a few times as it goes along."
Callahan also knows that Dalton and Williams have different deals at their fingertips. This isn't the 2017 Browns defense and this certainly isn't Dalton's 2015 offense. But in 2015 Finley was still at Boise State.
"He's played against Gregg a number of times. He recognizes things that maybe Ryan is seeing for the first time and wouldn't recognize in the same manner," Callahan says. "Ryan did a really good job recognizing that stuff. He didn't have a lot of problems seeing the field. He might have had one or two that were difficult looks that he got confused on. But for the most part, he sees the field well, too. I don't see Andy having a whole lot of difficulty seeing things. It's going to be a challenge either way, whoever will be out there against Gregg."
Adams and his defense are hot. Dalton's teammates know they can expect some cool from their side.
"When he's in the huddle there's just a veteran presence about him," says tight end C.J. Uzomah. "He knows and understands defenses really, really well."
Or as wide receiver Alex Erickson says, "He's seen every look in the book."
Like a safety coming from anywhere at any time.