Getting Defensive: Bengals’ Formations and Personnel


With the departure of former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, the Cincinnati Bengals‘ defense predictably had a down year in 2014.  What was once the backbone of the team looked like a weak link with a pass rush that finished dead last in the NFL (20). At times it just looked like defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was calling the defense to avoid losing rather than going for the win.

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Part of the reason for the down year was the loss of linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and Geno Atkins’ absence from training camp due to offseason surgery.  But injuries happen and a coach must respond accordingly; the injury excuse only holds so much validity. With the (re-)addition of Michael Johnson, improved health of Geno Atkins, and a burgeoning Will Clarke, Gunther will enter the season with a seven-player rotation on the defensive line.

The Bengals’ defense also added players at linebacker: veteran A.J. Hawk and third-r0und pick, tackling machine, Paul Dawson. Both figure to play a role early on with Burfict on the mend (microfracture surgery) and the possibility that he lands on the P.U.P. list, which requires a player to miss the first six games of the year. Also, one would do well to not forget about second-year linebacker Marquis Flowers, who the Bengals are high on.  The word is the rotation that was so successful in 2012 (51 sacks), will be back, so this year Guenther’s motto should be “Year Two, We’re Coming For You!”

Last week we looked at the team’s possible offensive personnel groups.  This week it’s the defense’s turn and the possibilities are endless and exciting.

Base 4-3

Defensive Line – Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson

Linebacker – *Vontaze Burfict/A.J. Hawk, Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur

Secondary – Dre Kirkpatrick, Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Adam Jones

*This is assuming that Vontaze Burfict is not put on P.U.P.

4-3 Under

Defensive Line – Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Thomson, Geno Atkins, Will Clarke

Linebacker – Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Marquis Flowers

Secondary – Darqueze Dennard, Reggie Nelson, Shawn Williams, Leon Hall

4-3 Over

Defensive Line – Will Clarke, Pat Sims, Wallace Gilberry, Michael Johnson

Linebacker – P.J. Dawson,  Vontaze Burfict, A.J. Hawk

Secondary – Leon Hall, Shawn Williams, George Iloka, Adam Jones


Defensive Line -Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko, Marcus Hardison, Michael Johnson

Linebacker – Emmanuel Lamur, Vincent Rey, A.J. Hawk

Secondary – Dre Kirkpatrick, Reggie Nelson, Shawn Williams, Darqueze Dennard

Nickel and Nickel 2


Defensive Line – Carlos Dunlap, Wallace Gilberry, Geno Atkins, Will Clarke

Linebacker – Vontaze Burfict, Marquis Flowers

Secondary – Darqueze Dennard, Leon Hall, Reggie Nelson, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick

Nickel 2

Defensive Line – Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Marcus Hardison, Michael Johnson

Linebacker – P.J. Dawson, Emmanuel Lamur

Secondary – Dre Kirkpatrick, Josh Shaw, George Iloka, Derron Smith, Leon Hall


Defensive Line – Carlos Dunlap, Atkins, Pat Sims, Will Clarke, Michael Johnson

Linebacker – Emmanuel Lamur, Vontaze Burfict

Secondary – Adam Jones, Shawn Nelson, George Iloka, Dre Kirkpatrick

Goal Line

Defensive Line – Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Thompson, Domata Peko, Geno Atkins, Margus Hunt

Linebacker – A.J. Hawk, Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur

Secondary – Leon Hall, Josh Shaw

Next: Rookie Tight End C.J. Uzomah Showing Promise