In an interview with Bengals team reporter Marisa Contepeli, defensive line coach Nick Eason broke down his unit.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive line has long been one of the strongest units of the team. Led by Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins over the past decade, they’ve won a number of battles in the trenches.
Recently, Bengals.com team reporter Marisa Contepeli caught up with the man who leads the unit, Nick Eason, a former player himself, to discuss what is expected to once again be a strength in the upcoming season.
The conversation started with the jewel of their free agency haul, D.J. Reader. Eason had plenty of great things to say about Atkins’ new running mate along the interior,
"“… His tenacity, his ability. Even though he’s a big guy, he can move. He affects games in the run game and in passing situations. His character is through the roof. He has leadership skills.”"
The addition of Reader certainly fits the theme of the Bengals offseason. It was clear that the front office was looking to add big-time talent as well as tremendous leadership.
The former Texans big man qualifies for both. He’s been one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league and he was leaned upon for leadership in Houston. He was even nominated as the team’s Walter Peyton Man of the Year.
Moving on to the rest of the unit, one of the biggest wild cards was brought up in Carl Lawson,
"“Carl is coming along… hopefully he stays durable because when he’s in the game, he affects quarterbacks. He’s strong, quick, explosive.”"
The Bengals will have a strong defensive line regardless, but it’s Lawson who could catapult them into elite status.
It’s widely forgotten that as a rookie, the former Auburn Tiger notched 8.5 sacks. He’s got the traits to be an upper-level pass rusher and complete the Bengals unit. If he can remain healthy for a full 16 game slate, he opens up the combinations defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo can throw at opposing offensive lines and makes them much more difficult to prepare for.
Speaking of being difficult to prepare for, starting defensive end Sam Hubbard’s relentless effort and skillset routinely gives opposing offensive line coaches headaches. Eason is expecting Hubbard to take the next step in his development,
"“You have Sam, who has come into his own going into his third year. I’m looking for Sam to have one of his best years, a Pro Bowl year this year. He’s a leader, he works hard… smart football player.”"
Overall, Eason appears to be extremely confident in his unit and he has every reason to be. The defensive line room is filled with leadership and talent, as well as a nice combination of youth and experience. The big men up-front will be tasked with helping along the extremely young linebacker core and paving the way for the entire defense back to get back to its once tenacious state.