When defending against the run, the Bengals have a good core of defensive safeties that do not mind violent providing a violent heimlich maneuver on running backs. Guys like Chinedum Ndukwe and Chris Crocker comes to mind and Roy Williams, when he did play, made an impact around the line of scrimmage more times than not. Aside from the fact that Tom Nelson made us gag at times towards the end of the season, if the opposing team ran the football, our safeties would have none of it -- at least they played very, very, hard.
But when teams threw the football? Oh boy. It was scary. Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle said:
“You’ve got to be able to cover. If you can’t cover, you have a hard time. You have trouble unless you really tweak what you’re doing. The more versatile they are, the better it is.”
“Discipline in his coverage,” says Coyle when asked what Ndukwe has to improve. “Discipline in improving his footwork. Doing all the little things the right way all the time. He plays with great effort. He’s a tough guy. He flies around. He’s been productive. He’s had real moments where he’s made a lot of productive plays. You saw how effective we were not giving up big plays in the running game with (Ndukwe) in there.”
The problem is that the Bengals developed a squad of tough safeties that are really good at stopping the run. Against the pass, they're average at best, a liability at the nicest, and scarier than Kathy Bates in a hot tub at worst. The versatility that Geoff Hobson spoke of after the NFL Combine was regarding a safety that can support against the run with good coverage skills. Having guys like Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu in the division tends to make you envious.
If the Bengals elect to address the defense with their first round selection, it's a good bet that they look at safety first. Even if the Bengals get Roy Williams signed, as they're more than likely to do, the position will still need help. But if you look at the players available in free agency, unless they sign Darren Sharper, don't expect much more than what they have.
A list of available free agent safeties.
Mocking the draft ranking - free safeties.
Mocking the draft ranking - strong safeties.