In 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals surprised the league and fans everywhere by making the playoffs with a rookie quarterback, a rookie receiver, and a first year offensive coordinator. Andy Dalton was better than expected, and played well enough to win ballgames, but the team was led by a top ten defense. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s unit was 7th in the league in yards given up per game, and 9th in points per game. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins was the heart of the defense, but major contributions came from Carlos Dunlap, Thomas Howard, and a deep defensive line rotation. Going into 2012, the rotation on the line was still deep, with an infusion of youth, and the draft also added cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and safety George Iloka. Another top ranked defense seemed to be in the cards.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and things haven’t quite worked out the way most fans envisioned. After two games, one of which was against an offensively challenged Cleveland team, the Bengals D has given up 434 yards per game, good for 30th, and 35.5 points per game, which puts them at 29th in the league. It’s still very early in the season, but it seems as if there are fundamental problems on the defensive side of the ball that might not be fixed easily. If the Bengals are to make a return trip to the playoffs, diagnosing the issues is paramount, and I’ll attempt to break things down in order to determine where the problems lie, and if there is a cure for what ails them. Hopefully, the issues aren’t fatal to the team’s chances this season.