Bengals’ defense could be moving to elite level

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Aug 24, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws a pass after being hit by Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Josh Shaw (26) as Geno Atkins (97) tries to block the pass during the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) throws a pass after being hit by Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Josh Shaw (26) as Geno Atkins (97) tries to block the pass during the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Bengals are making moves to get better in all aspects of the game. Offensively, the weapons are there. But, the defense could be elite.

It’s always been about the O in Cincinnati. The offense has been the center of attention from day one. But, there could be a swift shift in the way Bengals fans view the franchise in 2017. With the addition of talented rookies that are hungry for recognition and a place on the roster, the defense could suddenly be grabbing attention for the Orange & Black.

Maybe the shift in philosophy would be good for a Bengals team that missed the playoffs last year.  Don’t panic. That doesn’t mean sitting through battles that end 10-7 or sound like the Cincinnati Reds beat the Cubs. But, it does give hope to an offense that had trouble scoring in 2016. The offense has been stocked and is ready to do major damage. Having a defense that matches the intensity of the offense is always a luxury no team would turn down.

When the Bengals decided to nix the Margus Hunt experiment, that was one sign of progress. When Domata Peko snagged a deal with the Broncos, the mindset was evident. Bengals coaches wanted to get things done. The past wasn’t good enough. Old thinking had to be replaced with new ideology. It was time to think about getting fast and dominant.

It’s All About Speed And Versatility

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Carl Lawson has been receiving rave reviews and tons of attention during the Bengals’ practice sessions. His ability to play up or with a hand on the ground has been impressive. Not only does Paul Guenther like what he sees from the former Auburn beast, Carlos Dunlap is also taking notice.

"“He’s relying on his natural ability so now we’re trying to cover that with the educational part,” said Dunlap, via Bengals.com. “He’s a natural edge rusher, he’s asking a lot of questions. He wants to be a sponge. I think he can help us, but let’s see what happens in pads. Everyone is dressed for the part now.”"

If you hadn’t noticed, the Bengals aren’t slacking when it comes to Pro Bowl-caliber defenders. Dunlap has gone to the Hawaiian festivities, Adam Jones claimed his first trip, Geno Atkins and Vontaze Burfict are on the list also. But, the lack of a pass rush has been the only thing holding the unit from (dare I say it?) Denver Broncos status.

Speaking of those guys in the Mile High, let’s just say it. How that Domata Peko has taken a stab at the Bengals way of thinking, there should be a chip the size of Ohio on each shoulder of the defense. This should be a year of record-setting performances from various members of Guenther’s Gang.

The Burfict Scenario

The Taze-manian devil has come into OTAs and minicamp chiseled and ready to go. He’s also been inspired by Lawson’s ability to get to the QB in practices. But, Burfict is the real key to an elite status for the Bengals D. Over the last ten games of a forgettable season, Burfict was at the top of his game. During that span, he was graded the highest at his position by Pro Football Focus.

With his understanding of the defense, the rookies showing their ability to learn quickly and the overall increase in speed…this will be something special.

Next: Ready To Win

Burfict has acknowledged that he has to be a leader on defense. Funny, most fans and players look at him as the heart and soul of the defense already. There should be no problem with intensity from this year’s edition of the defense.

The emergence of Nick Vigil, the addition of Kevin Minter and potential of Jordan Willis make things interesting for the year. The pieces are there. It’s time to see how they get fused together for a playoff run and more.

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