It's clear that ESPN (if you take national publications seriously) isn't impressed with the Bengals defense.
ESPN ranked the Bengals secondary as the 28th best in the NFL
Young CBs Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall look to be entrenched for years to come, while veteran Deltha O'Neal will provide depth as a backup and compete with David Jones for the nickel spot. The Bengals have numbers at safety, but also have question marks when it comes to finding starters. Outside of Dexter Jackson, there is not a lot of starting experience. Jackson is a 10-year veteran who provides veteran leadership and toughness but his age and durability are concerns. Marvin White and Chinedum Ndukwe could be the future at safety, but how they handle the responsibility and competition remains to be seen.
ESPN ranked the team's linebackers as the 24th best in the NFL.
Marvin Lewis has said there will be scheme changes for the Bengals' defense, including more 3-4 looks. First-round pick Keith Rivers can do a lot of things well, and he could play any of the spots in the 4-3 and certainly could contribute inside in the 3-4. He should be an instant starter. In the Bengals' base look, Rivers should start on the weak side, with Dhani Jones in the middle and Ahmad Brooks on the strong side, but there is position flexibility here. In the 3-4, these three players all probably would see significant time at the two inside spots. Jones exceeded expectations in 2007 after being signed midyear, while Brooks is a big, talented player who has to stay healthy to get the experience (CJ note: no way?!) needed to progress. Rashad Jeanty has started at strongside linebacker and is a former defensive end who could quickly transition to a pass-rushing outside linebacker. OLB Darryl Blackstock is a similar player who could help in either scheme and will provide help on special teams. The Bengals suffered an inordinate amount of injuries to their linebackers last year, and while the scheme will be altered, this group should be better than it was in 2007.
ESPN ranked the Bengals defensive front as the 24th best in the league
The Bengals slipped a bit up front last season, but DT Domata Peko had a solid season in his first year as a starter. Peko can stack effectively at the point of attack and teams with John Thornton to form a solid duo against the run. Justin Smith was lost on the outside, and his speed off the edge will be missed, but Cincinnati added Antwan Odom after he had a breakout 2007 season in Tennessee. Robert Geathers, who had a roller-coaster season in 2007, will play opposite Odom. Cincinnati is decent against the run but needs a more potent pass rush from the front four.