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Bengals' strategy vs. Jags? 'Let Blake throw the ball'

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  • By Jeremy Bergman NFL.com
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The book is out on Jacksonville, and the Cincinnati Bengals have studied it ahead of their Week 9 clash in North Florida.

Run. Run. Run. Jacksonville hasn't fooled anyone with their game plan all year, but they haven't tried to from the start. Jags coach Doug Marrone said in July that he wanted "to run the ball every play" and effectively "change the game" in the process. So far, so good.

Behind Leonard Fournette's boffo rookie campaign, the Jaguars lead the league in rushing by over 100 yards (1,183), are the only team to average at least five yards per rush and pace all teams with a 53.1 percent run-play percentage. (That last number is just under 60 percent in home games.)

The downside to this run-first, run-only strategy is that it's now easier in a sense for teams to prepare for the Jags on a weekly basis. It doesn't help that their quarterback play has continued to be sub-standard with Blake Bortles under center. Cincinnati plans to take advantage of Jackonville's signal-caller woes on Sunday afternoon.

"We're not going to let the run game beat us," Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict told the Cincinnati Enquirer this week. "We're going to at least let Blake throw the ball. ... I think the film tells for itself that obviously Fournette can beat you and I'm not sure Blake can beat us. We want to put it in his hands and have him beat us, if he can."

Bortles went into the bye with arguably his two best games of the season, completing 67.2 percent of his passes, throwing 571 yards and two touchdowns over two weeks, a loss to the Rams and a blowout win in Indy. Interestingly enough, Bortles' 330-yard outing against the Colts came without Fournette in the lineup.

But with a healthy Fournette back in the fold against a Cincy defense that has allowed over 100 yards on the ground in their two games since the bye week, the Jags still have the advantage on offense, regardless of how Bortles plays. The onus is on Burfict and company to stack the box, stop the run and deal with the Bortles threat if and when it surfaces.

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