The pass rush has been up and down, but with an aging Robert Geathers, along with Michael Johnson in a contract year and Carlos Dunlap still yet to prove consistent enough to become an every-down player, a draft rife with high-quality pass rushers could be the elixir the Bengals need if Johnson continues to fall off after a fast start.
Dontay Moch could prove himself as a contender to stick around, as he appeared at linebacker and defensive end against the Browns. He did not really impact the game, but his use against the Browns shows that this could be an audition year to find where he belongs.
Rey Maualuga is also in a contract year and that is perhaps why he is entrenched in the middle linebacker position. He has picked up his play in the past two weeks, and both he and Vontaze Burfict racked up 6 tackles against Cleveland. Maualuga has lost weight at the staff’s behest and played better and more inspired as of late.
Outside linebacker Manny Lawson has increasingly given way to Dan Skuta at the Sam backer position, which could further explain Maualuga’s audition at Mike instead of returning to Sam, the spot of his early success.
Overall, we can all get too wrapped up in each game. For one, it is a long season. Also, more importantly, this seems to be a team wrapped up in the long-term for the first time in around eight years. Unlike 2010, with the T.O. fiasco, this is a team making moves for the future.
As the roster is stocked with young talent with upside, we have to consider Marvin’s future with the team and what Hue Jackson’s role on the staff indicates. Will Lewis slide into a personnel role as Mike Brown ages, much in the same manner that Paul Brown did? And is Hue Jackson maybe a coach-in-waiting?
All of these questions make the Bengals’ season much more interesting, and bumps in the road like the Browns game have to be taken with a grain of salt. Sure, another playoff appearance would be thrilling, but sustained success and championship contention is even more so.