The Bengals have improved every aspect of their defense since Zimmer has taken over the job as defensive coordinator, except for one. Turnovers. Last year the Bengals broke even when it came to a turnover margin. They had 25 takeaways (19 interceptions and six fumble recoveries) and 25 giveaways (13 interceptions and 12 fumbles). While breaking even isn't even close as bad as league worst Detroit at -18, it's still not close as good as league best Green Bay at +24.
Breaking even does not make Zimmer happy but Hobson says Zimmer is working on being much happier these days.
So as he heads into his third season as defensive coordinator, Zimmer is emphasizing picks, tips, strips, punches, scoops, and anything else that translates into turnovers. The defense is getting a steady diet of turnover drills to start each voluntary field workout, even "making sure the ball doesn’t go out of bounds if you’re trying to get a fumble," says WILL linebacker Keith Rivers
To begin every practice, Zimmer has his defense run drills where one defender strips a ball from the quarterback and another defender picks it up and runs with it. The coaches have gone as far as to create a video labeled "Missed Opportunities to Make Big Plays" from the 2009 season.
"It started right when we came in for OTAs; they put it right up on the screen," says cornerback Johnathan Joseph. "The difference between being 12-4 and how many games are won by seven points and three points. If you (score) off a turnover, your chances of winning the game go up by something like 85 percent. And they showed how the stats from last year fit into that."
One turnover can be the difference between being on the field for the playoffs or watching them at home. It is also the difference between being the number four defense in the NFL and being the number one defense in the NFL.
Having some more takeaways is the only thing between the Bengals defense and being the complete package. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and I'll keep saying it until you hate me. It's going to be a great year.