Last week, I took a look at the offense of the Cincinnati Bengals, giving grades for each positional group based on how the season ended. Now, it’s time to check out the other side of the ball. The Bengals defense started out slowly, but by the end of the season was a well-oiled machine, and a top unit in the league. From a relentless pass rush, to a much-improved secondary, the defense led this team to the playoffs and looks to be one to fear for seasons to come. Here are my grades.
Defensive Line: The defensive line, once again, was the heart and soul of the defense and the team as a whole. Led by Geno Atkins, who was tops in the league in sacks from the defensive tackle position, the Bengals finished third in that category in the NFL with 51. Atkins made the Pro Bowl after a dominating season in which he proved he was one of the league’s best, even getting some defensive player of the year mentions. Michael Johnson chipped in double-digit sacks as well, and became a disruptive force all season. Carlos Dunlap got more attention from offenses, but added a nice contribution of his own, even though it didn’t always show up on the stat sheet. One big surprise was Wallace Gilberry, who was signed as an injury replacement, and added 6 1/2 sacks and a touchdown. The rest of the defensive line might not have put up big numbers, but they did play their part in stopping the run and making plays when it mattered. Grade: A