Week in Review: Bengals Loss to Texans Outlines the Offseason Focus

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Defensive Backfield Shake Up

Dec 2, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA;Cincinnati Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson (20, right) celebrates alongside outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) after a game clinching interception against the San Diego Chargers during the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the signing made many fans groan, Terence Newman played more than capably this season. Also, Adam Jones had a career renaissance this season, adding impressive zone coverage to his man coverage abilities. Undoubtedly, new secondary coach Mark Carrier, a former safety, played no small part in improving the cornerbacks technique in zone coverage.

Even Leon Hall, already an impressive technician, was utilized completely differently this season. While Mike Zimmer deserves the lion’s share of the credit, Carrier was definitely an unsung hero this season. But he will face a challenge this offseason, when both Jones and Newman are slated to be free agents. Jones would be worth resigning, and rookie Dre Kirkpatrick will hopefully be ready to see significant snaps next season at Newman’s old spot at left cornerback. But acquiring another cornerback to bolster the backfield will be important.

Also important is to find a safety to compliment Reggie Nelson. Chris Crocker’s return helped free up Nelson, who is best when he can be moved around the formation. But when Crocker was out against the Texans, Nelson found himself forced to play mostly as the high safety, negating his excellence in run support and against short passes. Finding a long term solution will be necessary, but luckily this is another deep position in the draft, with Matt Elam out of Florida a personal favorite for a second round target.

Even with an unpleasant end to the season, the 2012 Bengals played above and beyond what many expected given their tough schedule and not-quite-there roster. The foundation is there to continue to build the team, and with an expanded scouting department and rumors of Mike Brown ceding more GM responsibilities, now is the best time in 20 years or so to be a Bengals fan, who are finally in a position to nitpick about the little things. Quite a change from a decade ago, before the Marvin Lewis era kicked off.

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