Breaking down why Bengals run defense hasn't been as dominant as expected

Bengals run defense has allowed the second-most rushing yards through 2 games
Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Cincinnati Bengals entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations but after an 0-2 start and an injury to Joe Burrow, fans are getting to be a bit more pessimistic about their chances of getting to the big game in February. Another disappointing part of the Bengals' season so far has been their run defense.

Last year, the Bengals defense surrendered the fifth-fewest rushing yards, per Keep in mind that they did play one less game than 30 teams but still, the unit was good so the expectation of them playing well this year wasn't unwarranted.

In two games, the Bengals' defense has allowed the second-most rushing yards with 384. They're second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers who have allowed 386 yards on the ground.

Bengals fans expected more from their run defense this year but the unit has not been good. They got trounced by the Cleveland Browns on the ground, who dashed for a total of 206 yards and one touchdown off of 40 carries. The Browns averaged 5.6 yards per carry in their blowout 24-3 win over Cincinnati.

In Week 2, the Bengals defense continued to get destroyed in the run game, surrendering 178 yards and one touchdown to the Ravens, who ran the ball 37 times. They averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

Why is the Bengals run defense struggling?

Something very important to factor in here is that the Bengals have gone up against two of the best run games in the NFL in their first two games. The Browns finished the 2022 season in the top 10 of rushing yards and while the Ravens weren't great in that department last year, they didn't have Lamar Jackson or many healthy running backs for a chunk of the season. Now that Jackson is back, that number will be much better.

While it might seem like a copout to blame the putrid run defense on the opponents so far, I do think that has something to do with it. The Steelers are the only team who have allowed more rushing yards than Cincinnati to this point and look at their opponents: Cleveland and San Francisco. Of course they're not going to fare well against those run games.


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We should have a better idea as to what kind of run defense the Cincinnati Bengals have this week when the Los Angeles Rams come to town. They have the 10th-fewest rushing yards on the year so far so if the Bengals defense struggles against this unit, then it might be time to worry.