Apr 27, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer speaks during the press conference at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
Defensive tackle wasn't all that recognized as a team need, yet the Bengals took two in the first three rounds. Could be a response to the Browns drafting Trent Richardson or could just be the best guys on the Bengals board, either way, 600-plus pounds were just added to the pack of wilder beasts on the defensive front, and running just became more difficult.
I like the stockpiling for a variety of reasons.
Teams should have identities. Those who don't drift through their schedule with minimal long-term impact on the league. The reigning champs load up on pass-rushers and come after quarterbacks. The Bengals are loading up on tackles and daring teams to run against them. Thanks to the youth in the position, this kind of draft strategy could have those lingering benefits good teams enjoy once their identity has been crafted.
Secondly, I developed a concern about the rush defense once a couple of good run-support ends left this offseason for greener pastures. Johnathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker were thicker guys with motors, yet the Bengals replaced them with sleeker speed-ends in Derrick Harvey and Jamaal Anderson. Retaining Pat Sims for another year was a key move for this defense, but until the draft, that still only left three tackles which in retrospect, seemed flimsy.
Also, choosing two tackles so early could be a response to the abilities of both Ray Rice and now Trent Richardson. In Week 17 of last year, Rice sliced up the Bengals defense with two long touchdown runs, then, a week later in the Wild-Card game, Arian Foster did the same. Now the Cleveland Browns have selected an all-world talent in Richardson who promises to be a problem for the division right away. These two guys aren't going away anytime soon and countering with a beefier defensive line makes a lot of sense.
I like the look of Devon Still. Not a fat man, this broad-shouldered mountain was pretty highly praised by a lot of draft wizards consistently mentioning his immediate readiness on the pro level. The Big-Ten defensive player of the year had 4.5 sacks last year indicating an ability to disrupt the quarterback. He seems like another three-technique guy and am excited to watch him this summer.
Brandon Thompson is a natural run-stuffer whose major criticism seems to be one of technique when double-teamed. If he is considered stellar against the run but plays with poor technique, some good coaching could making him a monster up the gut. He's got the proverbial motor, he gets the push at the point of attack, he's thick enough to disrupt, and he is the right kind of guy to collect.
Just imagine the forlorn faces of those worn out guards that are forced to go up against fresh 300-pound bodies on what seems like every snap. First it's Peko and Atkins, then it's Still and Thompson, and then, just for kicks, they mix in Pat Sims and laugh about it on the sidelines.
Of course the linebackers play better with improved defensive tackle play, and if any linebacker in the league could use less block shedding it's Rey Maualuga. The one-time man-child hopeful is still best when he can seek and destroy. Rey is not a thinking man. After years of defensive coaches telling him to think less and react more, Rey has taken the philosophy to the literal extreme and often appears as lost as a babe in the wood when used in coverage. If the beefcakes up front can fill their holes and keep Maualuga uncovered, he will have the impact on the game that we all dreamed he would when he was drafted.
The cattle ranch is in full effect in Cincinnati these days as one can find multiple large mammals grazing on the practice field grass next to the stadium. These specimens are defensive tackles and they could become the trademark to this team. The franchise now has a layer of its foundation committed to being tough against the run and the Bengals finally have something to hang their hat on for years to come.