Grading Bengals defense through first 9 games in 2022

Cincinnati Bengals
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Does the Cincinnati Bengals' defense have what it takes to reach the playoffs in 2022? As long as the unit doesn't suffer any more injuries...

The Bengals' defense started the season as one of the top-performing units in the league, but injuries have since decimated the starting lineup.

So far this year, Cincy has seen a number of defensive stars go down: Chidobe Awuzie tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the 2022 season. Mike Hilton hurt his finger and is in danger of missing a few weeks. D.J. Reader suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve. Dax Hill and Tre Flowers also missed time due to respective injuries.

When healthy, the Bengals boast a top-10 unit. Currently through nine week of the season, though, the Bengals rank 11th in pass defense based on passing yards allowed and 16th in run defense based on rushing yards allowed.

Bengals' injury-ravaged defense stayed elite in first half of the season

The defense's numbers have declined slightly in recent weeks due to the aforementioned injuries, yet considering their cumulative performance in 2022, they remain a very elite unit.

Admittedly, the Bengals' opponents haven't been 100 percent healthy either. Cincy played the backup quarterbacks of the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins at the beginning of the year; more recently, they beat up the three sub-.500 teams in the NFC South.

The Bengals' schedule gets more difficult in the second half of the season as Cincy will go up against AFC heavyweights like the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Cincinnati's defensive highlights this season nonetheless should not be trivialized, and we'd give the unit an A- grade so far.

Looking ahead to the near future, Jalen Davis should fill in as the slot cornerback if Hilton needs more time to recover, and Cam Taylor-Britt will likely start alongside Eli Apple in the secondary.

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Cincy's defense has proved resilient through nine weeks of the season, but the depth and quality of the squad will be tested in the coming weeks.