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Next Gen Stats: Bengals expose Chancellor in coverage

Kam Chancellor might have won the game for the Seahawks in Week 4, but the Bengals exposed his limitations in coverage last Sunday.

An emerging star at tight end, Tyler Eifert scored two easy touchdowns on twin seam passes over Chancellor's head, leading to finger-pointing and shoulder-shrugging among the defensive backs.

In the first quarter, Chancellor released Eifert to pick up Marvin Jones on a crossing route even though Cary Williams was already in coverage. Eifert was already 3.2 yards beyond Chancellor at the time of the throw, with Earl Thomas the only remaining defender tracking the tight end 16.44 yards away, per Next Gen Stats.

The Bengals came back to the play in the fourth quarter, with Chancellor again picking up Jones' crossing route, forcing Williams to adjust to Eifert in the end zone. This time, Eifert was 2.59 yards beyond Chancellor at the time of the throw, leaving Williams 5.31 yards away.

While those two scores can be attributed to miscommunication, Eifert flat-out beat Chancellor down the field for a brilliant 25-yard diving catch that set up the game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Eifert wasn't alone. Andy Dalton targeted Chancellor three times in a row with Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu for a total of 40 yards on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive.

Dalton's 17-point comeback was somewhat reminiscent of Tom Brady's Super Bowl MVP performance, with both quarterbacks exploiting Chancellor's coverage limitations in the middle of the field.

That's not to say Chancellor isn't a great player. He's simply better at stuffing the run and playing enforcer than hanging with the game's premier tight ends such as Eifert and Rob Gronkowski.

Here's what else we learned from Next Gen Stats in Week 5:

  1. Back in 2012, former Titans coach Mike Munchak acknowledged that Chris Johnson was a step slower than the 4.24 forty version that exploded on the NFL scene in 2008 and 2009. The artist formerly known as CJ2K has since undergone multiple knee surgeries, taken a bullet to the arm and nearly floated out of the league.

Although Johnson is tied for second in rushing through five weeks, he's not relying solely upon his wheels. In last week's blowout victory over the Lions, John Brown (21.03) and Andre Ellington (21.03 mph) each reached higher speeds than Johnson's maximum of 20.58 mph. Johnson is now reliant upon vision, patience and physicality that were missing in recent seasons. The sharp cut at the 40-yard line in the video to the right is demonstrative. A 23-year-old Johnson would have taken that carry to the end zone. A 27-year-old Johnson wouldn't have made that first defender miss. A 30-year-old Johnson forces a missed tackle and scampers 40 yards through open prairie land provided by the best surrounding talent of his career.

  1. When we reviewed the loaded 2014 wide receiver class last offseason, it was evident that Brandin Cooks' early struggles were due to a limited route tree near the line of scrimmage. By midseason, however, Sean Payton started calling for more intermediate and go routes. Next Gen Stats suggest Cooks is no longer an underneath receiver at all. The speedster is actually second among all wide receivers in total distance covered this season (7,254 yards).
  1. Looking for a glimmer of hope that Odell Beckham's hamstring injury won't keep him out of Monday night's matchup with the Eagles? When he returned to the game and drew a pass interference penalty to set up the game-winning touchdown, Beckham reached a top speed of 16.8 mph -- the same speed he reached on a 31-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter.
  1. It was clear back in preseason action that Doug Martin had recaptured his rookie-season form after disappointing efforts in 2013 and 2014. Through four regular-season games that obvious improvement was masked by ineffective blocking. The Bucs made a key adjustment against a Jaguars defense missing leading tackler Paul Posluszny. Tampa Bay ran 17 of 62 plays (27 percent) with an extra offensive lineman, gaining an average of 7.5 yards per play. Teams entered the week averaging fewer than two plays per game with an extra offensive lineman.

After gashing Jacksonville's defense for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a highlight-reel performance, Martin is tied with Johnson for second place in rushing yards.

  1. Speaking of offensive line formations, the Patriots are succeeding with a rarely seen rotation upfront. Seven linemen played at least 45 percent of the plays versus the Cowboys, continuing a season-long trend. Breaking in three rookies on the interior, the Patriots lead the league with 423.8 yards per game.
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