Bengals: Supporting cast needs to help Trey Hendrickson
One of the most surprising defenses in the NFL this season has been the Cincinnati Bengals. They have been good at every unit on the field with no real weakness.
The stripes are eighth in allowing 331 yards per game, eighth allowing 90.5 rushing yards per game, and fifth allowing only 18.5 points per contest. Clearly, the Bengals’ defense has been stifling, smothering nearly every team it faces.
The defensive line is one area on the defense that has taken a massive step this season and the addition of Trey Hendrickson is doing wonders for Cincy’s pass rush. Hendrickson already has 5.5 sacks this year, three of which came over the last two games. He is also among the top in the league in regards to total pressures through six games.
Cincinnati’s pass rush was straight unfair in their first handful of games with so much pressure coming from the defensive tackles combined with Hendrickson. The interior defensive line has sort of returned to Earth when it comes to generating pressure on the quarterback. As a result, the Bengals are not getting the same pass-rush productivity.
Against the Packers and Lions, Hendrickson has been pretty much the only Bengal generating consistent pressure.
That needs to change, especially with Lamar Jackson being the next opposing quarterback. The defensive tackles have still been very good, their pressure rate has just declined some.
One defensive lineman in particular who needs to play better is Sam Hubbard, the d-end starting opposite of Hendrickson. Hubbard did not play well against the Packers, but he rebounded with a good game in Detroit. For Hubbard, simply being consistent as a pass-rusher will make Cincinnati’s pass rush even more dominant.
Getting more production out of Cam Sample, Wyatt Ray, Darius Hodge, and getting Khalid Kareem back soon will help as well. The Bengals’ pass rush has been good enough and the defense is still playing extremely well. The pass rush outside of Hendrickson taking another step will take this defense to the next level.
Asking Hendrickson to come up with constant pressure every game is a lot to ask for. This concern is the result of two games with little pressure generated outside of Hendrickson. That is obviously a small sample size and could be unnecessary to worry about. But when was a better pass rush ever a negative for anyone?
It is unlikely the pass rush in Cincinnati ends up being a problem. Some of the pure domination seen in the first 3-4 weeks of play is proof enough. This defensive line is legit and can get better. Overall, the d-line is simply capable of applying more pressure than it has in the last two weeks. The pass rush and containing Jackson of Baltimore will be a big key in Week 7.