The Cincinnati Bengals safeties only counted for two interceptions in 2017. They want to get back to forcing turnovers in 2018.
`The Cincinnati Bengals struggled to force turnovers last season with only 11 interceptions. Only two of those came from their pair of starting safeties George Iloka and Shawn Williams. After both hauled in three just a season prior, it was a significant set back for the Bengals defense last season. Now the safeties group is hungry to get back on the field and get back to taking balls away.
It’s been two seasons since Cincinnati had former safety Reggie Nelson on the field which led the league with Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in interceptions with 8 in 2015. Nelson left via free agency for the Oakland Raiders, and Iloka and Williams had to step up in his absence on the back end of the defense. Following their 2016 performance, both players received new contracts.
Since the departure of Nelson who had a Pro Bowl season of eight interceptions in his final year playing in a Bengals uniform, the team’s safeties have combined for only nine interceptions. The team is hoping they can get back on track forcing turnovers this year with the developers behind their starting veterans as well. Clayton Fejedelem has been the backup for the last couple seasons and has the only interception in this weeks OTA’s. Robert Livington, the Bengals secondary/safeties coach, has been impressed with the group so far this offseason in the voluntary workouts.
“It’s a good group,” Livingston says. “The young guys are flying around, which is what you want. They might make a mistake, but they do it fast, and they don’t do it twice. And I can’t say enough about the veterans. They’ve been great helping the young guys, and you don’t always see that.”
Livington also talked about his veterans helping younger players on the field. Giving these young guys some pointers and tips will help them become a solid group in the upcoming season.
New defensive coordinator wants to bring more interceptions to the defense in 2018. The former defensive backs coach has developed some great secondary players including Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay. Getting more aggressive up front forcing quarterbacks to make throws faster and move them out of the pocket will only help the secondary unit. Cincinnati will also deploy more three-safety sets in 2018 which has proven to be successful by man teams in the new pass-heavy league.
With the drafting of second-round pick safety Jessie Bates out of Wake Forest, Austin will have more opportunities to make plays and move around the defense this season. Bates will likely be a roaming free safety at the top of the defense allowing Williams and Iloka to move around playing various roles.
If the Bengals safety group can get back to attacking the ball in 2018, this could be one of the top secondaries in the league. The cornerback group has great talent, and if Cincinnati can replicate the three-safety sets to help out, we could see double the interceptions this year. Just a little hot take to leave off with.