The Cincinnati Bengals defense was statistically one of the worst in the NFL during the 2019 regular season. Here’s a look at how the team can improve their defense this offseason.
Before completely discounting the Cincinnati Bengals defense, I think there are some players on that side of the ball that are certainly worth keeping around going into the future. Yes, the Bengals defense was bad this year, but I see it more as an underperforming defense than a bad defense. Guys like Jessie Bates, Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, and William Jackson are good players that I see having an impact moving forward with the Bengals. As a whole, the defense just couldn’t put it all together this season.
Cincinnati gave up the 4th most yards in the NFL in 2019. When a team goes 2-14, stats like that are expected, but I would have liked to have seen better numbers from this team considering the Bengals do have some talent on defense.
There are some holes that definitely need to be filled, but some key guys are already in place. Linebacker is the most important unit that needs to be addressed this offseason, and I would like for the team to add some upgrades in the secondary as well. In my opinion, the defensive front is fine. Having Dunlap, Lawson, and Hubbard coming off the edge, with Atkins and Billings in the defensive tackle positions is a solid group.
Looking at linebacker, Germaine Pratt showed promise this season. Ideally, he’ll be the starting middle linebacker for a long time in Cincinnati, although more upgrades are needed at the other spots.
Speaking of upgrades, Cory Littleton is someone I think the Bengals should go after in free agency. Littleton had 134 tackles and 3.5 sacks with the Rams this season, so his talents would certainly be an upgrade for the Cincinnati defense.
The Bengals could also look at adding linebackers in the draft. I would prefer that they sign someone like Littleton, while also adding another player at the position via the draft. Kenneth Murray, Malik Harrison, Troy Dye, Patrick Queen, and Jordyn Brooks are some linebacker prospects they could select in rounds two or three. The Bengals will have the ability to add huge upgrades at the linebacker position through free agency and the draft this offseason.
Onto the secondary. I think the Bengals only have two players in their secondary that are definitively long term options. Jessie Bates at free safety and William Jackson at corner are going to play a big part in the Bengals future. I like Shawn Williams at strong safety for now, but in the long term, the Bengals should look at finding a replacement. Ideally, the Bengals will use a 1st or 2nd round draft pick next offseason at strong safety.
At the corner position, aside from William Jackson, I like Darqueze Dennard and Darius Phillips. If they can show signs of improvement this season, it will give the Bengals time to add young corners to the roster. The Bengals signed Winston Rose, last seasons CFL interceptions leader, earlier in the offseason. After watching his film, I think he’s a solid player and I hope his talents can translate from the CFL to the NFL.
Overall, the Bengals defense struggled this season, but I believe there are some solid pieces. Adding upgrades to the linebacker position and secondary while bringing in some more depth to the defense as a whole can go a long way. The Bengals are in a rebuild right now. If they get their franchise QB and upgrade the offensive line this offseason, they’ll be able to upgrade the defense next season. Bengals fans need to remember it’s a process. They’ll have an opportunity to acquire good talent on defense for the future.