Now, it’s time to grade the defense and special teams:
Sep 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson (93) celebrates with defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (98) during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive Line: A-
Even without Atkins, the defensive line has been the strength of the team and been the most consistent aspect of the 2013 Bengals. The Bengals are 4th in the NFL with 34 sacks, of which, 25.5 have come from the defensive line. Thanks to that pass rush, the Bengals rank 6th against the pass, yielding just 211 ypg and 10th against the run (102 ypg).With the injuries to Atkins and Geathers, the depth of the line has really been on display, and after the bye, Devon Still will get a chance to be added back to the rotation.
Line Backers: A-
Who would have thought at the beginning of the year the Bengals would have gotten such good play from their line backing corps, especially with Lamur going down in camp. Many expected Burfict to continue his good play, but he was still a second year undrafted player with a history of maturity issues and less than a full year as a starter.
Regardless, no one had him leading the league in tackles and being arguably the best line backer in the NFL. Maualuga has put together his best season as a pro, yet his backup (Vinnie Rey) has played so well in Maualuga’s absence that Rey could replace Maualuga in the starting lineup. And Harrison, although his playing time has been limited, has been effective in situations.
All-in-all, the Bengals have gotten way more out of the line backer position than I (and many) thought they would.