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No Mike Zimmer for you; a look at how 2008 defense compares during Marvin Lewis era

The Dallas Cowboys should go after Mike Zimmer (again), writes Jean-Jacques Taylor of the Dallas Morning News. "Yes, he has a contract in Cincinnati, but he has such a close relationship with Marvin Lewis that the head coach would probably let him out of his deal, if asked." I seriously doubt that would even be remotely true. Why, after finishing their season with one of their most productive defenses during the Marvin Lewis era, would the Bengals allow him to go? Because they're friendly? The egotism of some about the team they cover is shocking.

It's generally thought that Bengals defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, is the right man for the Bengals defense, pushing players in the secondary to become aggressive, linemen on the defensive line to be more stationary, and linebackers to free flow. Has the Bengals defense improved? Compared to previous seasons, the Bengals defense hit their averages, highlighted with a 12th ranked total defense. None of the Bengals major defensive categories were lows, and the Bengals pass defense averaged their best during the Marvin Lewis era.

Season Total Rushing Passing Scoring
2008 325.5 (12th) 120.1 (21st) 205.4 (15th) 22.8 (19th)
2007 348.8 (27th) 118.3 (21st) 230.4 (26th) 24.1 (24th)
2006 355.1 (30th) 116.4 (15th) 238.6 (31st) 20.7 (17th)
2005 338.7 (28th) 115.6 (20th) 223.1 (26th) 21.9 (22nd)
2004 335.3 (19th) 128.9 (26th) 206.4 (13th) 23.2 (21st)
2003 351.2 (28th) 138.6 (25th) 212.6 (24th) 24.0 (28th)

While total defense, rush defense, pass defense and scoring defense are fine statistical judgments, comparing one team to others, it's first downs allowed, third down conversions, time of possessions and yardage per play that have a deeper understanding on how the story is told. It's the difference of staying on the field, allowing your offense to make the field and all that. In that respect, the Bengals recorded highs in fewest first downs allowed and fewest yards per play. On the other hand, the time of possession, while a bit misleading, also includes the success (or lack of) with the team's offense. Compare, for instant, the offense of in 2005 and 2008, and see how badly they differ on time of possession.

Season 1st D 3rd D % ToP Avg. Y/P
2008 18.5 (t-15th) 43% (24th) 32:02 (26th) 5.1 (12th)
2007 19.6 (24th) 43% (28th) 30:31 (21st) 5.5 (26th)
2006 21.1 (32nd) 42% (22nd) 31:29 (25th) 5.5 (26th)
2005 20.1 (27th) 43% (30th) 29:08 (9th) 5.6 (29th)
2004 18.9 (15th) 37% (17th) 30:40 (20th) 5.2 (16th)
2003 20.0 (26th) 41% (28th) 29:15 (7th) 5.6 (29th)

(Note: 1st D is average first downs per game, 3rd D% is the percentage of third downs conversion, ToP is time of possession that the defense is on the field and Avg. Y/P is average yards allowed per play)

I'm not here to tell you that the 2008 defense was great, a league dominating best, or even one of best defenses during the Marvin Lewis era -- you could argue that 2004 wasn't bad. But after one season, Mike Zimmer has this defense on a good track to become better, reaching very obtainable goals of a strong defense. Now, ironically enough, the question is the offense.