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Bengals to continue developing star edge rushers

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CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 01: Carl Lawson #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts to a play in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Aller /Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 01: Carl Lawson #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts to a play in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Aller /Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Bengals already have great pass rushers on their defensive line. Do they have their next generation of stars already on the roster?

The Cincinnati Bengals have worked hard to bring in and develop young pass rushers the last couple offseasons, and it has paid off. While quarterback is the most critical position on a team, pass rusher is arguably the second most important. Putting consistent pressure on quarterbacks forcing them to make bad decisions or mess up the timing of the play is hard to do in today’s NFL. If a team can consistently get pressure, it makes the whole defense better.

For many years, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Carlos Dunlap have been the stars of the Bengals pass rush. Sprinkle in defensive end Michael Johnson who has had good years for Cincinnati, and you have a great group of pass rushers. Unfortunately, players get older and need replacing at some point. All three of the names above have yet to be re-signed and are on the last year of their respective contracts.

It has been talked about that the Bengals want to work on a deal getting done with Atkins before the regular season begins. Regardless, Cincinnati has to find young talent that can replace the defensive ends when they are gone. We all hope that Carlos Dunlap signs an extension and retires a Bengal. Playing on a team friendly deal for the last several years and consistently putting up substantial numbers, it won’t be cheap.

Cincinnati possibly has their next group of star edge rushers already on the roster. 2017 rookie linebacker/defensive end Carl Lawson led the rookie class in sacks last year with 8.5. Only half a sack away from Geno Atkins who led the team with nine sacks. Lawson’s role will expand this season in the base 4-3 packages to allow him more opportunities to be a playmaker.

Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals /

Cincinnati Bengals

Another 2017 rookie that is often forgotten about is the defensive end, Jordan Willis. The Kansas State product came into the league as a raw talent just waiting to be unlocked and shows the potential to have a very high ceiling in the NFL. We don’t entirely know what we have in Willis yet with his limited snaps last season and even coaches regret not playing him more, but I fully expect him to be a weapon for new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to exploit.

Then you have the 2018 third-round draft pick out of Ohio State, defensive end Sam Hubbard. It was unbelievable that Hubbard fell to the Bengals in the mid-third-round so it was no question whether they should grab him. Giving the Bengals even more depth at the defensive end position, Hubbard will likely see limited snaps in 2018 but get plenty of opportunities to learn behind all of the talents along the defensive line and like Lawson a year ago, get chances to prove he belongs as a starter.

Related Story: What will it take to sign Geno Atkins to an extension?

With Atkins looking to ink a new deal before the regular season starts, is it possible that Cincinnati doesn’t hold onto Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson after this season? Could Johnson be a cut before the season even starts? 2018 should be an exciting year to watch and find out what the Bengals edge positions will look like in the near future. Regardless, it looks like they have the next generation of star edge rushers already on the roster.

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