While Bengals offensive coordinator plans to use a running back by committee approach this season (yet, "chaired by Rudi Johnson"), the Bengals are seeing even more changes on the other side of the football. Change is a history we've become accustomed to.
Mike Myers, a veteran of the Mike Zimmer defense, is throwing out serious buzzwords. Such as "better", "no nonsense", no thinking, better talent, etc.. Ironically, we're not so convinced that Myers will be on the team this year. We projected John Thornton, Domata Peko and the two rookies, Pat Sims and Jason Shirley (though he could miss some time pending legal dispute) as the team's back ups.
Even Marvin White (five massive pounds heavier), has been impressed with the defensive coordinator giving a buzz-sentence: "We’ll put a lot more pressure on the quarterback." Stop, Marvin. Stop. I have to promote how we're supposed to show disdain with Chad Johnson, shake our heads at Odell Thurman (though we have no investment anymore) and be generally bored in May. We're not supposed to giddy, are we? We're Bengals fans that think they can predict a team's failure, only to severely underestimate it. It's irony, of sorts.
But yea, I'm giddy. Truthishly (five points if you can tell me the name of the Drew Barrymore character that says that word), this defense has improved, ranging from the rave reviews of young and veteran defensive players for the defensive coordinator, to the overall acquisition of defensive talent (draft, free agency... aka, Antwan Odom).
The Problem On Defensive Structure
No, I don't mean the type of structure where inmates run the asylum (though some will argue that point). Leslie Frazier, Chuck Bresnahan and Mike Zimmer round up the team's defensive coordinators since 2003 (three in six seasons). Each installing their own system. Each promoting their own philosophy (when and whom to blitz, speed over brawn, etc). That's no different than your manager being replaced every two years after sub-par results. It gets frustrating to reboot every time.
There's another element. Between 2003-2005, the Bengals drafted 14 defensive players. Only Jonathan Fanene and Robert Geathers remain (that's 14% of your draft). That means you have to replace those guys with veterans lacking tread on their tire, overpaid in some instances, but absolutely no substance beyond the year they're signed. Between 2004-2005, they drafted 10 defensive players -- guys like Thurman, Pollack, Ratliff, Madieu Williams, Landon Johnson -- that were destined to be the team's long-term foundation. Of the nine defensive players (including Ethan Kilmer who was drafted as a receiver) drafted between 2006-2007, nearly half figure to be starters and only two are gone (A.J. Nicholson, Matt Toeaina).
Add this last element. In the past few seasons, the Bengals have lost Justin Smith, Landon Johnson, Madieu Williams, Brian Simmons, Odell Thurman and David Pollack.
What You Have...is no consistency. No foundation. Too many new managers. This season will be no different, but so different it's not funny. The Bengals revamped their backup defensive tackles. Added a new WILL linebacker through the draft. The entire secondary will have another year under their young belts. The two biggest bookends (Geathers, Odom) are coming into the season expecting big sack totals.
So yea, this year there will be change again on defense. This time, the change actually appears to be good.