As was the case with the offensive line, I'll be grouping the defensive positions together, and we're going to start off with the defensive line.
The big problem for the guys lined up directly on the other side of the ball is applying pressure on the quarterback. Right now, the Bengals sit 28th in sacks and would likely be dead last if it wasn't for Hendrickson's amazing performance against the Jets in Week 3 where he recorded 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Unfortunately, this level of dominance for the D-Line hasn't been a common sight these year, and it's something that will need to change going forward. I've said it before and I'll say it again, a line consisting of Trey Hendrickson, B.J. Hill and Sam Hubbard should be able to get to the quarterback more than they have.
Now, they did lose D.J. Reader in Week 3 against the Jets, who will be gone for at least a month after a knee injury, but the talent depth should make up for that huge loss.
One thing they have been really good at is stopping the run. Of course, that might take a hit with Reader gone, but as it stands they currently are seventh in rush yards/attempt allowed, only allowing 3.7 yards for every carry.
If they can start applying more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, they can easily be a top unit in the league. For now, though, I'll give them a B, largely due to their effectiveness against the run and their performance against the Jets.
Of the whole defense, the linebacker core is probably the most underrated. The Bengals' linebacker unit runs deep and is full of talent, all headed by 2020 pick Logan Wilson, who has recorded seven interceptions in the last three seasons, the most of any linebacker in that same amount of time.
The linebackers don't start and end with Wilson though. It took a little while, but Germaine Pratt has really come into his own these last couple of seasons, and at times he feels like he is all over the field making much-needed tackles to prevent large gains. Having a reliable tackler is something that's very overlooked nowadays, as most people look towards more attractive stats like interceptions and picks, but having someone who can bring the ball carrier to the ground consistently is extremely important.
Akeem Davis-Gaither is a very solid depth piece too and showed last Sunday against the Jets that he could fill in for Wilson or Pratt if they get injured. Injuries are something that is impossible to avoid in sports, especially one as physical as football is, so having that depth piece is reassuring.
While the defensive line deserves a lot of the credit for holding opposing running backs to pedestrian numbers, the linebackers have helped a ton in that field too, and Wilson has more than proved that he can be reliable in coverage.
Overall, I have no complaints about the linebacker core. It runs deep and, while it may not be the most flashy part of the team, these guys do their jobs and do it well, so I'll give them an A- after four games.