Bengals’ Defense Has To Keep Them Competitive

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Oct 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Geno Atkins (97) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) in the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Geno Atkins (97) sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) in the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cincinnati Bengals’ defense will be under a microscope this year. With changes being made, they’ll have to support a young offense in flux.

Even when the Cincinnati Bengals were struggling to gain respect in the Dalton-Green era, there was the defense. When things started to gel for the franchise, the play of the defense was something that could be looked upon as lightweight consistent. No, the Bengals weren’t sending waves of players to the Pro Bowl. But, the defensive unit kept the team in games. That’s something that was absent last season. With the O-Line undergoing a huge facelift, the Bengals’ defense will have to come through.

As the Bengals stumbled to a 6-9-1 record, public opinion of the guys on the other side of scrimmage began to fade. Paul Guenther’s gang of bandits was supposed to come out ready for battle. After all, the unit was a few months removed from advancing in the playoffs. The anger and devastation were supposed to keep them sharp for the campaign. Instead, Cincinnati tripped out of the gates and went 1-2.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned from a suspension in Week 4 and the Bengals beat Miami 22-7. But, the victory didn’t convince many fans that the defense was back. In fact, a Week 5 loss to the Cowboys was a low point for the unit. Ezekiel Elliott shredded Cincinnati’s front seven for 134 yards and two TDs. 

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If that wasn’t bad enough, Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady hooked up for 162 yards. Brady had 376 yards passing in the Week 6 embarrassment. To add gasoline to the fire, Martellus Bennett added 48 yards.Week 7 was a victory over the hapless Browns. But, Gary Barnidge ripped Cincinnati for 66 yards. The Bengals’ inability to cover tight ends was exposed. Eventually, something would have to be done.

The Subtle But Loud Dismantling

When the Bengals picked up Kevin Minter, the writing was on the wall for someone. It wasn’t personal. It’s a signal that things would have to change for the Bengals’ defense to stay competitive. Essentially, every mock draft that has been done on the Orange and Black is an ode to this year’s draft. Defense is the name of the game.

To be honest, Karlos Dansby’s presence wasn’t truly earth shattering. Rey Maualuga was decent against the run. But, there were many times he seemed to get caught out-of-place in pass coverage. Burfict is the Einstein of the linebacker group. He’ll work well with Minter. But, he’ll have to report to camp in shape.

Coach Marvin Lewis is adamant about the team not being in rebuild mode. But, it sure seems like moves are being made to change the status quo.

"“It’s not rebuilding,” Lewis stressed, via The Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’ve put the guys in place. We still have probably likely our three or four, five best players in the midpoint of their careers. Obviously, they have played a lot of football but as I told them before I left this is going to become your football team.”"

With experiments looking like the norm on the offensive line, Andy Dalton could be in for a long year. If he’s not given the time he needs to find his weapons, the defense will have to take up the slack. Remember how the Denver Broncos got to Super Bowl L? The defense was able to come through and win games with scores and timely interceptions. The Bengals will have to do their best impression of the Mile High guys.

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The Skinny

Lewis says it’s not a rebuild but they’ve parted ways with some big names. Damato Peko’s leadership is gone, Maualuga, Reggie Nelson, Dansby and Margus Hunt are no longer in Stripes. With their departures, the Bengals have gotten younger and hopefully faster. In my book, that sounds like a reboot. But, hey, I’m just a diehard fan who’s been following things since 1975. The old saying is ‘defense wins championships.’ This will surely be the year fans find out.

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