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Secondary allows Bengals defense to be aggressive

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 11: Darqueze Dennard #21 and William Jackson III #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrate in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Paul Brown Stadium on August 11, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 11: Darqueze Dennard #21 and William Jackson III #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrate in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Paul Brown Stadium on August 11, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Cincinnati Bengals have key players in their secondary that should allow the defense to be more aggressive in 2018.

The Cincinnati Bengals are looking to become more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball in 2018. Players like cornerback William Jackson III and new rookie safety Jessie Bates could help new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin make that come true. For the defense to be more aggressive up front, Cincinnati will need the secondary to have success, and I think the Bengals have the right pieces in place to have that success.

William Jackson had a breakout season in 2017 after missing his entire rookie season due to a pectoral tear injury in camp. He made a statement in his second year to prove his worth of being a first-round pick the season before by being one of the top shutdown cornerbacks in the league. Working his way up as the season went along and got more playing time, Jackson shut down the best of the best in wide receivers including not allowing a single catch for Pittsburgh Steelers Antonio Brown while in his coverage.

Allowing less than 35% of targets in his direction be completed, Jackson proved that it doesn’t matter where he lined up on the field. Even when he was asked to step up and play as a boundary cornerback following Adam Jones injury, it was just another way Jackson proved his worth by allowing one of the lowest passer ratings in his direction in the NFL last season.

Jackson will play a prominent role in a talented secondary with Darqueze Dennard also having a breakout season in 2017 and Dre Kirkpatrick coming into the 2018 season healthy. Kirkpatrick struggled with injuries all season in 2017 and has a chip on his shoulder after most fans have written him off. With Jackson and Dennard having breakout seasons, Kirkpatrick will have plenty of opportunities to prove himself with quarterbacks shying away from the other two.

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals /

Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati also bolstered their safety unit with the addition of second-round pick Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates. If you haven’t checked out our film review on Bates, click here. While only starting two seasons for Wake Forest, Bates proved his versatility and ballhawk skills to warrant entering the draft in 2018.

Bates brings another playmaker to an already talented secondary. Hauling in 6 interceptions and ten pass deflections in his two seasons, he has an aggressive itch to go after the ball. It’s another safety that the Bengals can move around the defense and contribute in multiple areas. One area being in the box to cover slot wide receivers.

Cincinnati is looking to bring in more three-safety sets in 2018 which is common in today’s NFL as it has become a pass-heavy league. With returning and additions of playmakers in the secondary, this will allow defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to be even more aggressive up front. With the talent in the front seven of the Bengals defense, it could be fascinating to watch this season.

We’ve all heard about the Bengals wanting to make some changes on the defensive side of the ball and become more aggressive. Giving linebacker Carl Lawson, who spent all of last year as an edge rusher, more linebacker responsibilities. This will also allow him to blitz from more spots on the field keeping quarterbacks on their toes.

The Bengals spent multiple draft picks to bolster the front seven as well this year. Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard, Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, and Virginia defensive tackle Andrew Brown all give Cincinnati more weapons to deploy. There have also been rumors about what the defense will look like in 2018 and whether they will bring in some 3-4 looks to the mix.

With Lawson assuming more linebacker responsibilities, I can only wonder if that means in some 3-4 looks. Add in the fact that they are looking to deploy more three-safety sets and have a safety moving around the defense, it proves to be very exciting to get our first look at the changes in week one against the Indianapolis Colts. Regardless of how they line up, Austin wants to bring aggressiveness to this defense and he will have to rely on the secondary to be able to do that.

Guys like Jackson and Bates are going to be just a couple of key factors in the secondary for the aggressiveness to work. The secondary will see less help on some plays as the front seven sends more players after the quarterback from different angles. Austin has had a full offseason to design what he’s wanting to do and I have faith that this defense will look better and more fun to watch in 2018.

Cincinnati ranked 11th last season in sacks with 41 but they could move up inside the top ten this season if this scheme works. With the playmakers on this defense, I fail to see how it couldn’t. Kirkpatrick might see extra attention this season but I think he will come back and get to his 2016 self. With the additional traffic coming his way, we might see more safety help over the top of him as well if Dennard and Jackson are fully holding down their end.

Sacks are great, but what this team needs is turnovers in 2018. If the aggressiveness of the Bengals new defense can bring more turnovers, that would be what turns this defense around. Last in the league in forced fumbles and tied for 20th in interceptions with 11, there’s writing on the wall of what needs to change. If the Bengals want to get back to the playoffs in 2018, they will have to give their offense more opportunities which means forcing turnovers.

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What would you like to see the Bengals do in 2018 on the defensive side of the ball? Whether it be scheme looks or specific players taking on different roles, comment below and let’s see what we can come up with. Personally, I would love to see defensive end Carlos Dunlap push inside next to Atkins with Lawson and Hubbard/Jordan Willis on the outside. That would be a nasty front four for offensive lines to try and contain.