The defensive side of the ball will be more difficult to predict, given that nobody is certain exactly what the main scheme will be. For the sake of this article, we’ll outline the traditional 4 defensive linemen and three linebackers. Keep in mind that the Bengals will deploy a number of formations to best defend the field, getting players like Akeem Davis-Gaither involved, although he isn’t listed here.
Left Defensive End: Carlos Dunlap
Dunlap has aged like fine wine. He just seems to keep getting better as his career goes on. He’ll be tasked with getting his share sacks while also leading the younger guys with his infectious energy.
Defensive Tackle: Geno Atkins
The recently named all-decade defensive tackle returns to continue to wreck offensive gameplans. Expect him to have an insane year now that he’s surrounded by more talent to take some attention off him.
Defensive Tackle: D.J. Reader
This signing is so smart on many different levels. First, Reader is going to command double teams in the interior, allowing Atkins to wreak even more havoc than he normally does. Second, he’s going to help shore up the run defense. Third, he’s going to occupy linemen, allowing the Bengals newly acquired young and athletic linebackers to run freely and make plays all day long.
Right Defensive End: Sam Hubbard
Hubbard and Carl Lawson will split reps here, but the former Buckeye will probably start most games. Hubbard earned 8.5 sacks and has played incredibly well, especially considering he’s only two years into his career. Don’t be surprised if he’s able to hit double digit sacks.