There are a lot of positions that we've analyzed heading into the 2012 season for the Cincinnati Bengals. We have looked heavily into wide receiver, running back, cornerback and safety in the past, but one position we have overlooked has been defensive end. The team lost Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene in free agency, but they signed two more in Jamaal Anderson and Derrick Harvey.
But that's not the end of the story. The team is not short on talented edge rushers, but it's still unclear as to who will play a major role at defensive end and who will be a backup.
Who we have:
Carlos Dunlap: When Bengals fans think of the defensive end position and the Cincinnati Bengals, they think of Dunlap, who set the rookie sack record for the Bengals in 2010 and, even though he was injured for a handful of games in 2011, he still pressured the quarterback more often than he didn't. He's young, he's quick around the edge, he's the best pass-rushing defensive end on the team and it seems that he was a steal in the draft.
Robert Geathers: Geathers has been a stable force at defensive end. He's not flashy and he's not the greatest pass rusher or run stopper in the league, or even on the team, but he is consistent. He started 14 of the team's 16 games and he finished the season with 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks. In passing situations, Dunlap usually comes in for Geathers. 2012 is a contract year for Geathers, which means he'll likely do what he can to earn a new contract or impress other teams if he hits the free agency market (which he likely will).
Michael Johnson: Johnson is a little confusing. He has a lot of talent and he's a big, strong and fast edge rusher, but he has either really under achieved or he's just not as good as we figured he would be in the NFL. Last year he started the first five games of the season before losing the starting job to Frostee Rucker. Johnson has a lot of speed, but the most sacks he's ever racked up in a season was in 2011 with six. 2012 is also a contract year for Johnson and if he wants to stick around or have a decent contract in 2013 with another team, he needs to step it up this season. Also, with Rucker gone, it would appear that Johnson is back on top of the depth chart, at least for now.
Jamaal Anderson: Anderson is a former first-round pick in 2007 for the Atlanta Falcons, but in five seasons, he has only made 7.5 sacks. He has good size and speed, but his scouting report suggests that when speed won't get the job done by itself, Anderson struggles. He also has a tough time reading blocks. He'll more than likely be in a backup role if he makes the team and provide depth at the defensive end position.
Derrick Harvey: Harvey is another former first-round pick that has failed to live up to expectations. He premiered for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2008 season, but after three years he was waived. The Broncos picked him up on a one-year contract for 2011, but he only played in five games before the end of the season. In his four seasons, he has made eight sacks. According to his scouting report, he has great straight-line speed but can't get around the edge and like Anderson, struggles getting off blocks. He'll also be in a backup role if he makes the team.
Other Free Agents Still Available:
Defensive ends and the draft:
The Bengals don't seem to be looking at the early rounds of the draft to grab a defensive end, but then again you never know what they'll do. The need doesn't seem as big as wide receiver, guard, running back, cornerback or safety, but if they're looking to grab the best player available, here's who they may look to grab.
- Quinton Coples
- Melvin Ingram
- Courtney Upshaw
- Andre Branch
- Whitney Mercilus
- Chandler Jones
- Nick Perry
- Vinny Curry
- Jared Crick
- Tyrone Crawford
Final Thoughts: The Bengals will probably head into the 2012 season content with the defensive ends that they have and they may possibly add a pass rusher in the mid to late rounds of the draft to fill in some holes on the depth chart. I wouldn't expect them to go hard after a defensive end until the 2012 season is over, but you know what they say, "you can't ever have enough talented pass rushers."
My guess is that the depth chart has Dunlap on top or possibly in a rotation with Geathers at right defensive end, and Michael Johnson on top of the left defensive end position with either Anderson or Harvey behind him (depending on who looks better early in the season... my guess is Anderson because of the length of the contract).
We've seen both Johnson and Dunlap give quarterbacks fits when they're in the game so we all know that they can be good starters, but rushing the passer isn't the only responsibility of a defensive end -- they have to be able to stop the run as well.
There are only two defensive ends under contract for the 2013 season (Dunlap and Anderson), so after 2012 the team will need to scramble to bring in some talented pass rushers.
What are your predictions on the future of the position and the depth chart for the 2012 season?