According to Football Outsiders, when the Bengals defended against three-wide receiver formations, the defense rated as one of the best in the NFL, sporting a DVOA of -5.4%. Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, for the less inclined, is basically an evaluation of a team or players, examining every play based on league-average baseline, adjusted based on downs and strength of opponents.
Not too bad considering most of the league's offenses play in three-wide formations; furthermore considering that the Bengals passing defense against other wide receiver formations (such 0-1 WR, 2 WR, 4-5 WR) ranks 20th or worse. A large part for this is Cincinnati's strength at cornerback, holding station with guys like Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall out wide and a combination of Adam Jones and Morgan Trent in the slot.
What we don't get is the second half of the season. Jonathan Wade was signed by the Bengals when injuries began building. Wade played four games, starting three, allowing an opposing quarterback rating of 129.3. Though we do admit Wade made a handful of decent plays. Keiwan Ratliff filled in during the final three games at slot, allowing all 11 passes targeted to his receivers to be caught for 127 yards receiving and an opposing passer rating of 145.1. Before going on Injured Reserve on December 10 with an injured ankle, Rico Murray allowed opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 116.2, including a 130 yards allowed against the Buffalo Bills.
Obviously the question isn't so much a reflection on how the Bengals did against the pass last year, it's how they'll manage to do it this year. Leon Hall, Morgan Trent and Brandon Ghee about your only certainties at cornerback right now. Guys like Wade, Murray and maybe Ratliff could return to play role on the depth chart, all of which depends on Johnathan Joseph's decision in free agency and Adam Jones' collection of what ifs (health and legal issues).
|Morgan Trent||Adam Jones|
|Opp. QB Rating||70.9||109.9|