POSITION(7): Carlos Dunlap, DeQuin Evans, Robert Geathers, Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, Michael Johnson, Dontay Moch
Margus Hunt (2nd round draft pick SMU)
The Bengals had incredible success last season sacking the Quarterback. Much of that was because of the talent and depth that the Bengals had on the defensive line. Johnson, Dunlap, Geathers and Gilberry accounted for 27 of the team's 51 total quarterback sacks (52.9 percent). That's as many quarterback sacks as the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers recorded (as a team) and more than the entire defense for the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The good news is, the cast is back for an encore.
Michael Johnson is coming off his best season in which he sacked the opposing quarterback 11.5 times, the second most on the team besides defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
Wallace Gilberry, released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in early September 2012, signed with the Bengals three weeks into the regular season. Gilberry finished third on the team with 6.5 quarterback sacks, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Robert Geathers, drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, signed an extension that made him one of the highest paid players on the team after the 2006 season, where he generated 10.5 sacks. After that contract, most people were disappointed with Geathers' production, as he didn't achieve more than 3.5 sacks in a season since then. However, Geathers has been a coaches favorite and held the starting spot over Carlos Dunlap last season.
Carlos Dunlap recently signed a five-year extension worth $40 million. After posting 9.5 sacks during his rookie season, Dunlap has only generated 10.5 sacks since 2011. He has been very productive in quarterback pressures with an average of one pressure per seven rushes.
Margus Hunt racked up eight sacks and 11.5 tackles-for-loss in college last year, but his knack for blocking kicks earned him the nickname of "The Eastern Block"--a play on that ability and the fact that he hails from Estonia. A second-rounder, Hunt is a lock to make the squad and is a project that Zimmer is excited to take on.
DeQuin Evans has been a practice squad guy since the Bengals nabbed him as a free agent after the lockout.
Dontay Moch is a guy who has fought injuries and migraines since coming to Cincinnati. The popular belief is that because James Harrison was signed, Moch needs to make the team as a defensive end. A big guy with incredible speed, Moch has a very steep climb to crack this roster. We will see him play in the NFL someday, it just may not be with the Bengals.
The real question is who is going to start this season. Will it be Robert Geathers or will it be Carlos Dunlap? Dunlap has taken most of the first team reps this offseason and after the new deal, seems to be the front runner for the position.
Where the Bengals enjoy the advantage though is in the ability to rotate fresh bodies into the mix. This will probably be Gilberry and Hunt. Unless Moch is able to wow on special teams, I don't think he makes the roster.