As the Bengals move into the second half of the season, they are embracing change. Bringing back an old friend could bring about change in the AFC North.
The Bengals made moves on and off the field, during the Bye Week. As the Ravens beat the Steelers, Cincinnati remained in the thick of the AFC North race. They kept pace without playing a game. Off the field, Bengals’ brass made moves that could have the defending North champs looking different on defense.
One thing definitely has Bengals faithful scratching their heads. A once proud defense has taken a tumble. Last season, the Bengals D was in the midst of harassing quarterbacks and taking the league by storm. As of Week 10, things have changed significantly. Thanks to the bye, Paul Guenther’s unit is sitting at No. 25. Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near the output of their record-breaking job in 2015.
There was no hesitation when Wallace Gilberry became available. Gilberry had 17.5 sacks in his four-year stretch with the Bengals before signing with Detroit. His return to Cincinnati is an indication that a midseason makeover is bound to happen.
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The Boys Are Back In Town
The bad news? One of the other defensive ends will see decreased playing time. Margus Hunt and Will Clarke had just fought their way into the rotation. Essentially, with Gilberry back, Guenther’s Gang will look different against the New York Giants. Part of the problem lies with Michael Johnson’s production. That could be the main reason No. 95 was brought back into the fold.
“We’ve got the old band back together with Gilberry being back,” Domata Peko beamed, per USA Today. “I’m excited where we are. We’re only one game back in our division. Everything’s right ahead of us.”
With the Bengals’ defense playing catch-up to Ken Zampese and the offense, the bye week offered some time for reflection. Changes needed to be made. But, to stay relevant in the weak AFC North, the Bengals chose to revamp what made them contenders last year and kickstart the second half of the season.
After Guenther stated that jobs were on the line, the defense had a spirited practice. The return of Gilberry seemed to get the message across and Guenther confirmed suspicions that Wallace would start against the Giants on Monday Night Football.
"“Gilberry knows what we’re doing. He kind of picked up the Xs and Os where he left off. He’s in really good shape. We had him practice today and hopefully he can help us Monday night.”"
A stout front four and upgraded scheme could be what the doctor ordered. As the season progresses, the starters need to be rotated. Bringing in a player who knows the system can only help. Right?
Vontaze Burfict has been a shell of his menacing self. Linebacker Nick Vigil could get a few looks on Monday, to see what he brings to the table. Vigil has the ability to play both nickel and WILL positions.
A shakeup on defense isn’t pressing the panic button. But, infusing youth and determined players could turn the Bengals’ season around. Sitting at 3-4-1 doesn’t mean the AFC North is conceded. But, it does mean Marvin Lewis and Co. need to get it right.
It starts with championship D.