Last season, the Bengals had a lot of success on defense as they finished with the No. 7 overall defensive unit. Thanks in large part to one of the league's best defensive lines, the Bengals were able to thwart their opponents efforts to score and many linemen had career years in sack totals. The Bengals relied heavily on a rotation for the defensive line with Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and Domata Peko leading the way and Frostee Rucker, Pat Sims, Robert Geathers and Jonathan Fanene to help back-up and lead Cincinnati's dynamic defense.
But once the offseason started, the defensive line began to take on a different appearance as Rucker and Fanene departed for more playing time and more money. In order to replace them and help ease the loss of their production the Bengals signed Jamaal Anderson and Derrick Harvey. But it didn't stop there.
During the 2012 draft, the Bengals selected some intriguing names that could provide valuable depth for the Bengals moving forward. In the second-round the Bengals picked up Devon Still out of Penn State and followed up that selection by choosing Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson in the third-round. And this is where it gets really interesting.
According to Geoff Hobson, the Bengals defensive line rotation is likely going to be constantly implemented and consist of more playing time for some of its younger players, for the time being. But right now, it's difficult to gauge what the rotation will be once the regular season arrives.
Again. No pads, so no declarations. But the rotation is going to be often and constant. The interesting thing is which combos do they use in the pass rush? The kids will obviously get a lot more work than a nine-year veteran like left end Robert Geathers and a seventh-year tackle like Domata Peko.
Look for third-round pick Brandon Thompson to get a lot of snaps at Peko's nose tackle spot because the coaches also figure to go easy on Pat Sims early as he comes back from an ankle injury that wiped out his last six games. And second-rounder Devon Still figures to take a lot of snaps behind Geno Atkins at the three technique. Although Still played both end and tackle at Penn State, he's staying put at tackle as the Bengals see if they can get some more push up the middle to help Atkins, coming off a Pro Bowl season.
As of now, it appears as though Thompson will get a bulk of the snaps as the back up to nose tackle Peko. Thompson figures to be battling Sims for playing time once the regular season hits. And that will be an intriguing competition considering how much Sims has contributed throughout his four-year career.
But as of now, Thompson will see more snaps as Sims continues to recover from a season-ending ankle injury. Once Sims is able to fully participate, the battle should heat up between the two. It will make for a fun time during training camp and preseason and we could see five solid defensive tackles on the 2012 final roster.