Geno Atkins is a guy who Mike Zimmer said he “put his chip on” during the draft last year. What does that mean? Look for him to EARN a starting job over Tank Johnson this summer. Tank was supposed to come in and give us a pass rushing monster from the inside. Instead all we have to show is TWO sacks and 39 tackles in two seasons. Geno gave us 3 last year alone on minimal playing time. Double his snaps and we could have something special in the middle. I love Peko and he is great at clogging the hole but he has ONE sack the last three years. So the moral to the story is that Geno gave us more sacks in one season then our two starting DT’s gave us the last two combined…….enough said.
Rey Maualuga can finally move to his most natural position of MLB. Dhani Jones was very serviceable for us even though he wasn’t a big play kind of guy. Rey is a great run stuffer as well, but OLB was not the perfect position for him. Zimmer wasn’t comfortable to give Rey the keys to the D right away and Rey was to talented to sit on the bench so he earned his stripes on the outside. Now he knows the playbook along with all the calls and can lead the D from the middle. The MLB usually sees the ball the most due to the large DT’s taking up blockers in the run game so his tackles will rise. I think he will cause much more fumbles from the middle as well with the increase in tackles.
Carlos Dunlap had an amazing rookie year. At the end of the season both Zimmer and Lewis wish they played him sooner. I’m glad they didn’t because it helped him mature as a pro before he got his feet wet. When he finally did he was completely unstoppable. Even when he was getting doubled by the tackle and chipped by the running back or tight end he continued to bring the steam. He is the best out of the group of young pass rushers that will finally allow Zimmer to get even more creative.
Michael Johnson was moved last training camp to OLB. Dhani Jones is a free agent and allows Rey to move in the middle. I think Lewis and Zim had a plan last year. That plan comes to fruition this year with Johnson moving to OLB. He’s only listed at 13lbs heavier than Maualuga even though he is 6’7″ and actually a little faster. His hips are fluid and smooth for a man his size and perfect to cover a TE over the middle or blitz the QB. There is no doubt he has the potential to be one of our best players. With the build of a 3-4 linebacker and will probably be our best coverage LB. I envision 90 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 INTs, and 7 passes defended. Not a pro bowl year but not a bad one.
Reggie Nelson was tagged to the Bengals a lot before the Jags drafted him in the first round back in 2007. Now with the trade of a slightly used CB he is finally with us. Most people will laugh at my pick on this, but hear me out. He started 6 games last year yet had 54 tackles, 7 Passes defended, 2 INT, and 2 FF. If he did that every 6 games over the coarse of a full season everyone would have his jersey on. Quietly he has showed signs of being the best big play safety we have had here in some time. The Bengals have had some decent success giving out 2nd chances and I truly believe this could be one of the better ones because he is still in the prime of his career.
As long as J-Joe is back next year we should have a much better D then we had last year. I’ve heard a lot of people dog out the D since last year and kind of forget how good they are. Sure they didn’t do as well last year, but when the Offense Time of Possession declines it leaves the D on the field more. The talent level in the NFL is so close that the extra minutes on the field translates into more mistakes. Plus they needed to be humbled a little because they were drinking a little to much of their own Kool-Aid before the season. With an improved pass rush and three lockdown CB’s combined with a solid LB corps we will no doubt see Zimmers revenge. I only see two Offensive teams that scare me next year and they are the Colts and Texans. Other then the Seahawks everyone we play has a legit run game, but we are very suited to stop the run. The D gives us the most reason for hope this year and I am pretty sure that is fine with us.