Bengals preparing for the unexpected with Saints offense

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals don’t know which quarterback they will face or even which kind of offense to expect based on the New Orleans Saints’ injury reports this week, but defensive end Sam Hubbard said it’s a little like preparing last week for a dynamic Ravens team that featured dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Saints announced Friday that Andy Dalton will start at quarterback. The Bengals also have to be ready for Taysom Hill in the Wildcat and other various ways the Saints utilize the talented athlete.

New Orleans’ offense is similar with Dalton or Jameis Winston at the helm. It could look a lot different if Hill and running back Alvin Kamara run more of the show.

“I mean Taysom does a lot of things similar to the Ravens type offense, more run-heavy type Wildcat, and then it’s a more traditional quarterbacking role when you get Andy and Jameis, as well, so just having a plan for the unknown is really important,” Hubbard said. “So whatever happens we’re ready for it.”

Dalton started the last two games for the Saints while Winston has been out with a back and ankle injury, but it’s unclear if Winston could be back this week. He was still limited in practices early in the week, and Dalton played well enough to get the win Sunday against Seattle and is 2-0 against the Bengals since his departure from Cincinnati in 2020.

Against the Seahawks, Dalton threw for 187 yards and one touchdown with one interception, Taysom Hill threw one pass for a touchdown and ran for 112 yards and three scores, and Kamara added another 103 yards on 23 carries.

That proved to be a successful combination last week and a case could be made to keep things similar this week while Winston continues to recover. Dalton has a better quarterback rating and completion rate in two games compared to Winston’s three starts prior to injury.

Hubbard said preparing for Dalton at this point is just like facing any other opponent. He’s well-respected in Cincinnati as “a great guy,” but he left in 2020.

“It’s pretty crazy a lot of guys in this locker room never even played with Andy or don’t know Andy, but you know we’re preparing for all different scenarios,” Hubbard said. “It could look a lot different depending on who we get so we got to we got to prepare accordingly.”

Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo praised Dalton as “a really good professional quarterback who has played and seen everything and doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes, and he’s not easily fooled.” He believes the offense would look the same with Winston in there, both playing at “a high level.”

In the passing game, the Saints have weapons like receivers Chris Olave (389 yards, two touchdowns), Jarvis Landry (168 yards) and Mike Thomas (171 yards, three touchdowns), but Landry, Thomas and Olave have been on the injury report all week. Landry (ankle) and Thomas (foot) were both non-participants Wednesday and Thursday, but Olave (concussion) was upgraded to limited Thursday.

“I think the world of (Landry),” Anarumo said. “Tough, gritty. You want him on your side. The young guy, Olave, is really playing well. And Michael Thomas is who he is. Just another great receiver. We’re expecting all of them to play, and then we’ll go from there.”

Facing Jackson and the Ravens last week should be good preparation for Hill, players and coaches said. The Saints are schematically different, but the two athletes are similar.

“He’s a great player, great athlete, really hard runner to bring down,” Hubbard said, also noting the Saints’ offensive line is physical like the Ravens’ line. “He can do a lot of things, play tight end even, so he can be out there and not be playing quarterback, doing other things. So, you just got to be on alert.”


Bengals at Saints, 1 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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