Yesterday, we went position by position on the Bengals/49ers offenses ahead of their Week 2 matchup. Today is about defense.
Defensive End: Carlos Dunlap vs. Dee Ford
Winner: Carlos Dunlap
This one is close. Both are great pass rushers, but I think Ford holds the edge in that regard. Dunlap is a much better run defender though. He is not far off from Ford in terms of getting after the quarterback,. Being a more well-rounded player gives him the advantage here.
Defensive Tackle: Geno Atkins vs. Sheldon Day
Winner: Geno Atkins
Unless Atkins’ matchup was against Aaron Donald, he wasn’t losing this. He wrecks entire game plans all on his own and is the Bengals best defensive player. Day is good, but isn’t in the same stratosphere as Atkins.
Defensive Tackle: Andrew Billings vs. DeForest Buckner
Winner: DeForest Buckner
It is strange that these two play the same position given how different their body types are. Billings is a nose tackle/gap stopper with a lot of power. Buckner has the build and athleticism of a defensive end but gets the job done in the middle. He is a solid player and a matchup nightmare for interior offensive linemen. He holds the edge clearly.
Defensive End: Sam Hubbard/Carl Lawson vs. Arik Armstead/Nick Bosa
Winner: Sam Hubbard/Carl Lawson
Each team has two defensive ends who split time regularly. So, I decided to do the duo matchup here. Arik Armstead is solid, but hasn’t lived up to his draft position. Bosa, on the other hand, is just getting started. He has the potential to be among the best at his position. Just one game into his career though, he hasn’t proved it yet.
The Bengals duo wins this one thanks to Hubbard’s intensity, athleticism, and motor. To top things off they have Lawson, who is one of the best up-and-coming pass rushers in the league.
Linebacker: Preston Brown vs. Dre Greenlaw
Winner: Preston Brown
The former league leading tackler gets the nod here. Returning from injury, Brown looked like the player Bengals hoped he would be when the originally signed him in the opener. Greenlaw is a rookie who had a good game in his debut. He has a lot of upside, but his inexperience loses him this one.
Linebacker: Nick Vigil vs. Kwon Alexander
Winner: Nick Vigil
This may come as a shock, but Vigil wins out. The 49ers spent big money to get Alexander in free agency this offseason. He has great athleticism and coverage ability to handle backs and tight ends. However, Pro Football Focus doesn’t view him so favorably, giving him a 2018 season grade of 59.1. That grade is very similar to Vigil, who is on a much better contract.
Vigil is the Bengals only coverage linebacker and can give up some big plays in the passing game. Still, he is solid in the run game. That, coupled with his leadership and contract gives him the edge.
Corner: Dre Kirkpatrick vs. Richard Sherman
Winner: Richard Sherman
It wasn’t too long ago that Sherman was considered a top three corner in the league, perhaps even the best. He has not been in the spotlight since joining the 49ers, but is still a solid corner. Not what he used to be, but better than most. Kirkpatrick is a good corner with outstanding speed, but can give up big plays and commit penalties a little too often. With that, Sherman wins out.
Corner: William Jackson vs. Ahkello Witherspoon
Winner: William Jackson
Jackson is one of the best young corners in the league. He spent the first few years of his career locking down one of the best in Antonio Brown. He’s got great instincts, make-up speed, and avoids penalties. After this season, he will be considered a top corner. Witherspoon is really good for the 49ers as well. He has incredible speed and holds the position down nicely. Still, Jackson wins here.
Safety: Shawn Williams vs. Jimmie Ward
Winner: Shawn Williams
Williams is a solid all around player for the Bengals. He can do everything in the back seven. He even rolled down into the box and played a linebacker like role for the Bengals last week. Ward loses out because he struggles with injuries often and there is a chance he isn’t even on the field Sunday. He is solid when healthy, but just isn’t consistent enough.
Safety: Jessie Bates vs. Jaquiski Tartt
Winner: Jessie Bates
Much like Jackson, Jessie Bates is one of the best young players at his position. He has great range and is willing to go into the box to make a tackle. Tartt is a serviceable safety and has the ability to make big play interceptions, but it isn’t enough to overcome the Bengals young safety.