Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther looks on prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
I am probably more critical of Paul Guenther and last year’s defense than anyone out there. The Bengals went from a top five defense to the 22nd overall defense and all they lost was a defensive end in free agency, who just happens to be back this season. So, should this be the year that makes-or-breaks Guenther as a defensive coordinator?
The short answer is, yes.
I like the fact that he did not make injuries a focus of the defensive struggles because my argument would have been, they had injuries in 2013 too. The one thing that still gets me is that Guenther, or Marvin Lewis, has yet to show us how they are going to improve past a few mid-level free agent signings. I know the NFL Draft is still in front of us, but with Lewis’s tendency to “redshirt” rookies, any defensive selection would be less likely to make an impact this season.
Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see Michael Johnson return after his sub-par performance in Tampa, and to see A.J. Hawk in stripes, but I have concerns. Can Johnson reclaim his Cincinnati form or will he remain sub-par. A.J. Hawk brings leadership and experience, but with an over abundance of linebackers entering training camp, it is unclear what his role will be beyond simply providing depth. So how will Guenther use both tools acquired this offseason to improve his defense?
Guenther made few adjustments to his game plans last season, especially after failed attempts to pressure Tom Brady and Cam Newton. This league has a lot of mobile quarterbacks and they will face two of the best in 2015: Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. If they don’t find a way to contain them while also pressuring them, it could be a long two weeks. Guenther and Lewis will have to adapt in the heat of battle if they want to be successful this season.
I may have been unfair to judge Guenther’s first season against 2013’s defensive performance. As for this upcoming season though, as we have stated a number of times, the time is now for the Bengals to make a run at the AFC crown. Although winning a playoff game would be nice, returning to the Super Bowl after 26 years should be the ultimate goal for this group. Guenther will have to make great strides in 2015 if that is going to happen.
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