The Bengals haven't been known for having a top-tier defensive tackle recently. They're not horrible. But they're not all-stars either. Sam Adams started producing once his knee heeled -- but not at the level most expected. John Thornton is a great community guy. But you struggle to remember when Thornton made a play that changed the momentum of a game or the complexion of an opponent's drive. Admittedly, defensive tackles are used primarily to clog up rushing lanes and create confusion with the offensive line. Like offensive linemen, a defensive tackle's worth doesn't rely on statistics. However, when linebackers play like all-stars, you credit defensive linemen for playing the role of offensive linemen keeping their linebackers clean.
Let's examine the current roster of defensive tackles. We have three signed for next season and one restricted free agent.
|1||Sam Adams||Adams came into camp last season a bit out of shape. He struggled to remain healthy early in the season from knee troubles. As he got healthier, he was much more noticeable in the backfield.|
|2||John Thornton||I like John. I think he's a role model for players and how to make a positive influence on the community. But like Adams, he's getting a bit long in the tooth.|
|3||Domata Peko||The youngest player at defensive tackle for the Bengals. Played well at times but often struggled to hold his ground.|
|4||Shaun Smith||Smith, like Peko, shows signs of joining the ranks of starting defensive tackles. Having just completed his fourth season (third with Cincinnati), it's pretty much assumed he'll be a backup -- at best.|
If Adams and Thornton remain on the team, and there's no reason to think otherwise, there needs to be an effort to groom younger guys that could be stable difference makers. Peko remains too inconsistent and Smith, from what we've seen, will play the backup role he's been playing for the past few seasons.
Will the Bengals offer a deal to Smith? Will they let him go and pick up someone in the draft?