Defensively this unit is tough to figure out. They are young, talented, and this year underachieved immensely, yet have been coming on the last few games.
DE/DT - Whats our situation? Despite the recent surge in QB sacks, this team has struggled getting to the QB this season ranking 30th in the league. This is a case of the old vs. the new. The new guys: Dunlap (8 sacks, 3 pass deflections, 10 games played), Atkins (2.5 sacks, 12 games played), Sims (2.5 sacks), M. Johnson (3 sacks, 5 pass deflections). The old guys: Odom (never had more than 8 sacks in a season, often injured), Fanene (never had more than 6 sacks), Tank (since 2005, has not collected more than 3.5 sacks), Peko (never had more than 2.5 sacks) Geathers (Only in 2006 has he had more than 3.5 sacks), & Rucker (never had more than 1 sack in a season). Of the older crew, NONE were drafted before the third round. Fanene is a FA this year
The fact is, in a 4-3 defense, you HAVE to get pressure from your front four guys. None of the old guys are sack machines anymore and if they can't get to the QB on their own then they don't deserve to be there. Odom is owed 3.4 million next year, Geathers is owed about 2.6 million. Is it possible we cut one or both of these guys next year?
This draft has a couple of pass rushing studs on both the inside and outside. Nick Fairley of Auburn (11 Sacks) is the consensus best DT prospect. Da'quan Bowers of Clemson (16 sacks) is the highest rated DE. Both guys are freakish athletes and perfect for a 4-3 system. Highly rated DE's are Robert Quinn (UNC), Adrian Clayborne (Iowa), Cameron Heyward (Ohio), and Allen Bailey (Miami). Quinn seems to have the build of a 3-4 OLB, but Clayborne, Heyward, and Bailey fit the bill of typical 4-3 DEs and any of them could slip into round 2. The DT class, not named Fairley, includes Marcell Dareus (Alabama), JJ Watt (Wisc), Jurrell Casey (USC) and Stephen Paea (USC). Dareus had a dissapointing season with only 4 sacks, but could be a dominant tackle in a 4-3. Where he goes in the draft will depend on his draft workouts. This group appears to be very deep, especially at DE. Can the Bengals afford to wait one round to pass up on the cream of the crop?
How important is it that we address DE or DT in this draft? 9/10 - This group has allowed 17 runs of 20 yards or more from scrimmage, for second worst in the league. Third worst in QB sacks. It is hugely important we upgrade! The question is, will having Odom and Fanene back next year be enough to draw attention away from Carlos Dunlap to allow him to continue after the Quarterback? In my mind, this team has to invest in its front four, and that means getting a high draft prospect (first or second round) Somewhere on the line to compliment Dunlap.
How likely is it that we will address DE or DT in this draft? 7/10 - The only question is whether or not Mike Brown is willing to give up on his Odom/Geathers investment and start over. Or if not, is he willing to pay multiple DE's millions of dollars if they're all not on the field at the same time.
Suggestion: Elite teams have an elite front four (or three). Cut Geathers, and spend a first or second round pick on a penetrating DE or DT. I would love to see Da'Quan Bowers playing opposite of Dunlap or Fairly taking up the middle. Have Michael Johnson stay in the position as a 3rd down specialist. Keep Odom (he's not getting paid too much next year anyway, his contract was front loaded) as insurance against a slow rookie development.
LB - Whats the situation? This group is pretty decent. Rey, Rivers, and Muckelroy have all proved to be decent draft picks in years. They are solid players, each has flaws. Dhani still leads this team in tackles missed and the regular kind, (some of you may remember he was in the top 5 for number of missed tackles last year). Overall, this is a solid, not spectacular crew. B. Johnson and Dhani are free agents
Who's there? From what I've read, not a real strong class of linebackers. Von Miller leads the group, Robert Quinn is projected by some to be and outside linebacker in a 3-4
How important is it that we draft a LB ? 2/10
How likely is it that we draft a LB in this draft? 4/10
Suggestion: I hate to let Dhani go because he's a proven veteran, but its time to move on. Rey's pick against Rivers on Sunday is a perfect example as to why we should do this. That's just not a play Dhani can make. A good stat is that Dhani in his long career has never had more than one pick or two forced fumbles. In two years, Rey has already had a season with 2 picks and another with 3 forced fumbles. Putting him in the center will give him more opportunities to make things happen. Rey, is in his third year he should be able to anchor this crew. No need to draft LB except maybe in the middle rounds.
CB/Safety? - Whats the situation? Our best crew by far, even if we don't retain Joseph. Hall, Adam Jones, and JJ
are all good to great CB's in the league. Morgan Trent and Ghee are both very good for back up players. Safety is another story. Everyone at this position is just decent and hurt all the time. Crocker is only OK, WIlliams is good,especially against the run, when healthy, Ndukwe should suffice as a career backup only and is a FA this year. Reggie Nelson has shown some flashes and has a pick and a forced fumble in limited (albeit increasing) action this year.
Who's there? This confuses our plans a bit because there is a lot of CB talent at the top of the draft this year. Patrick Peterson and Amukamara are two highly rated draft picks and if Joseph walks both buys could be very enticing. However, with Adam Jones behind JJ, its likely the team wouldn't draft another CB unless it was to convert him to safety. Also important to note, there are no first round locks at the safety position this year. Rahim Moore of UCLA (10 picks last year, 1 this year) and Kenny Tate of Maryland (3 picks, 3 FF) are the top safeties this year and both should be available in the second round.
How important is it that we draft a safety/CB this year? 5/10 - This is a tough question to answer. Roy Williams is a good SS when healthy, Crocker is adequate, and Gibril was supposed to give us a lot of depth. Everyone we have is adequate here, no one is good, everyone is injury prone.
How likely is it that we draft a safety/CB this year? 5/10 - Well, we didn't take a guy last year, not sure whether we will or not this year either. If Gibril, Roy, and Crocker come back at near full strength, I think it becomes pretty unlikely we take a safety before the 3rd, especially considering the weak draft class and our high draft position in each of the rounds.
Suggestion: Stay the course! This team has too many other needs to use a high draft pick on a safety, and I guarantee our secondary will look much better with a pass rushing front 4. Sign JJoe long term. Since this draft is weak at safety, we should definitely not reach for one in early rounds 1 and 2. Trading down is a possibility, but I'm a fan of quality over quantity. Resign Williams to a one or two year deal, and pray that Wilson is healthy and Nelson lives up to his potential. Continue praying that a talented safety falls in the draft to round 3 or 4. Otherwise, rounds 4 or 5 should be the earliest we really look to safety.