Struggling Bengals’ pass rush looks to put pressure on Smith

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard (94) and defensive end Carl Lawson (58) celebrates a defensive stop against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard (94) and defensive end Carl Lawson (58) celebrates a defensive stop against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half of an NFL football game in Cincinnati, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Josh Bynes credits Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith for his resiliency coming back from a horrific leg injury that probably should have ended his career two years ago.

Smith’s recovery is as good of a perseverance story as there is, but Bynes doesn’t expect the Bengals to take it easy on the recently returned quarterback when they travel to play Washington (2-5-2) on Sunday.

This week will mark Smith’s second straight start in his return after suffering a compound fracture in his right leg during a 2018 game against Houston, which led to life-threatening sepsis that required 17 surgeries to prevent amputation. He made his debut off the bench in Week 5 and was sacked six times, and he appeared again in Week 9 when Kyle Allen dislocated his ankle.

Last week, in Smith’s first full game he threw 55 times for 38 completions and 390 yards, all career highs, in a 30-27 loss to Detroit.

“For him to come back from what he had going on, what two years ago, and to be able to go out there and play a full game and obviously I did see on Instagram that he had set career highs in all his passing yards and completions ... and attempts or something like that, … so I mean that’s just an astonishing effort, and it shows that he’s resilient as all get out,” Bynes said. “And I’ve played him a long time over the years, especially when he was in Kansas City. Heck, I think I played him also in San Fran as well, because I’ve been in the league for a while, but he’s just definitely an awesome quarterback and the story he’s creating is just amazing, and, you know, hats off to him, but obviously the other side of it, we have to get after him on Sunday.”

The Bengals have struggled to get pressure on quarterbacks this season, and the matchup with Washington could be an opportunity to change that. WFT has allowed 30 sacks this season while failing to keep the pass rush off Smith, Allen and second-year backup Dwayne Haskins Jr., the former Ohio State signal caller.

Cincinnati, which has only 11 sacks in nine games, just needs to figure out ways to take advantage of that weakness on Washington’s offensive line.

“I think that would help out your resume if you get pressure on the quarterback,” Bynes said. “We’ve definitely got to find ways, be able to create ways to do that. Up front, we obviously haven’t had a chance to do that, so we’ve got to find a way to get to the quarterback. We know it’s an opportunity definitely this week against Alex Smith. They’ve shown that. Now we’ve just got to find a way, find a way to win games and find a way to get pressure on the quarterback to create turnovers as well so it will definitely be an opportunity this week.”

Only one team has fewer sacks than the Bengals defense, as Jacksonville owns just nine.

Cincinnati thought it was getting some pass rush help with the acquisition of former Falcons first-round draft pick Takk McKinley off waivers last week. However, McKinley failed his physical, and the Bengals waived him Tuesday.

Sam Hubbard’s return last week from a dislocated elbow should help, but Carl Lawson has been the only guy consistently getting pressure on quarterbacks. He has 3.5 sacks and his 19 quarterback hits ranks second-most in the league.

“You’re getting consistent play from him,” Taylor said of Lawson. “Over the last two to three weeks in particular, he’s really been a well-rounded player. He’s helping us in the run game and the pass game. We need him. We need those guys to show up. We need some of those hits to turn into sacks, obviously, but that’s the whole unit in its entirety. You know the coverage has to hold up to give him a little bit more time. He’s approached things the right way.”

Bynes said Smith is still mobile enough to escape trouble at times, though he has lost some of that ability and speed just from being out so long and because of the type of injury he suffered. He’s “still Alex Smith,” Bynes said, calling him a game-changer and “really smart quarterback,” and teams can’t just write him off because of how long he’s been out.

Smith threw for 715 yards in Washington’s last two losses, both times nearly leading comebacks from large deficits. Washington tied the game with Detroit on Sunday after trailing by 21 points in the second half, only to lose on a last-second field goal.

“Some people are just built differently,” Taylor said. “It’s hard enough to play quarterback in this league. It’s hard enough to come back off what many would consider a career-ending injury and probably for 99.99% of people it would be. So, it says everything you need to know about him.”

SUNDAY’S GAME

Bengals at Washington, 1 p.m., CBS, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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