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[Bengals Training Camp Preview]: Defensive Ends

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Last season, the Bengals defense sacked opposing quarterbacks 34 times. Many of those sacks came from defensive ends. In the beginning of the season, it was Antwan Odom. He racked up eight sacks in only six games. When the Bengals took down Green Bay, it was Odom who got to Aaron Rodgers five times. Then, against the Houston Texans, Odom ruptured his Achilles Tendon, ending his season.

One would think that when Odom went down, so would the Bengals ability to reach the quarterback. It probably did but other players did step up. Jonathan Fanene, Robert Geathers, Frostee Rucker and even rookie Michael Johnson helped the Bengals become the fourth best defense in the NFL. The Bengals have tweaked their defensive end depth chart a little between last season and this coming season. They've added some rookies and they have been experimenting with some defensive ends in other positions. So, let's see who will be making their acquaintances with opposing quarterbacks this season.

Antwan Odom
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 280 lbs
Age: 28
Experience: 7
College: Alabama
2009
Games Tackles Solo Ast Sacks PDef
6 19 18 1 8 2

Odom was shaping up to be the NFL sack leader last season before his ankle exploded like something in a Michael Bay movie. He has a good combination of brute strength and speed so he can bull rush through a tackle or speed around him. Even though he only played in five full games last season, he still led the Bengals in sacks and was second in quarterback pressures. So far this offseason, he has been limited in workouts due to his ankle but he is expected to be 100 percent for training camp. Odom will likely regain his starting spot as quarterback beater-upper and if he can stay healthy, he could finish what he started last season.

Robert Geathers
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 280 lbs
Age: 26
Experience: 7
College: Georgia
2009
Games Tackles Solo Ast Sacks PDef
15 36 21 15 3.5 3

Geathers has led the Bengals in sacks in two of his six seasons in stripes. Last season, he led the defensive line in tackles (56) and led the team in quarterback pressures. He only had 3.5 sacks last season which isn't near his 10.5 sacks in the 2006 season. Geathers may seem to have a problem getting to the quarterback but he's best when he has a strong pass rusher opposite of him which means he's best when he has Antwan Odom rushing the quarterback on the other side. If Odom is healthy, it could be beneficial to not only the right side of the line but to the left as well.

Jonathan Fanene
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 292 lbs
Age: 28
Experience: 6
College: Utah
2009
Games Tackles Solo Ast Sacks INT
16 36 18 18 6 1

Last season Fanene did an excellent job in filling in as a defensive end when he was needed. At the end of the season he had racked up six sacks which was second on the team and also finished second on the defensive line in tackles. Fanene also picked off a pass in the detroit game and ran it 45 yards back for a touchdown. When the Bengals were in a nickel formation, Fanene played defensive tackle. He's that guy who may not be quite good enough to start for a top five defense but he's that guy that you sure as hell want around just incase somebody gets hurt. He's a leader and hard worker and a great asset to Zimmer's defense.

Frostee Rucker
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 280 lbs
Age: 26
Experience: 5
College: Southern California
2009
Games Tackles Solo Ast Sacks INT
12 13 7 6 1 1

Rucker was resigned this offseason after playing in a career high twelve games logging 22 tackles and one sack. Like Fanene, Rucker is an inside pass rusher in the nickel formation and also like Fanene, Rucker had an interception last season. He's another one of those guys who you're happy that you have him if you need him but you hope you don't.

Michael Johnson (Maybe)
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 268
Age: 23
Experience: 2
College: Georgia Tech
2009
Games Tackles Solo Ast Sacks PDef
16 17 11 6 3 5

Michael Johnson was drafted last season out of Georgia Tech as a defensive end. He has a rare freak athletic ability that enables him to be big yet incredibly quick and fast. He ended up with three sacks last season and his long arms led the defensive line in passes defensed including a pass deflection that landed in Fanene's lap in the Detroit game. He is such a gifted athlete that Zimmer has changed his position to linebacker on the roster this season. While he won't be starting over Dhani Jones, Rey Maualuga or Keith Rivers, he could very easily play outside linebacker in obvious passing situations because of his ridiculous speed around the edge. If the whole linebacker thing doesn't work out, we could see Johnson lining up at defensive end again on passing situations where he gives tackles fits.

  Rahim Alem
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 251 lbs
Age: 23
Experience: R
College: Louisiana State

Alem signed with the Bengals as an undrafted college free agent out of LSU where he emerged as a pass rush specialist his junior year when he totaled eight sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss and was voted onto the first team All-SEC by the Associated Press. His skill set adds depth to a position looking to increase it's sack total. He will add good competition for veterans and young players like Carlos Dunlap in training camp. Only time will tell if he has what it takes to make the final 53 man roster. If he doesn't he could be a valuable asset on the practice squad.

  Carlos Dunlap
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 277 lbs
Age: 21
Experience: R
College: Florida

If it hadn't been for a DUI before the SEC Championship game, Dunlap could have easily been a first round draft choice. The Bengals grabbed him in the second round with the 54th pick overall. He has a large frame but like Michael Johnson, he's extraordinarily fast and quick for his size. He was named the defensive MVP for the 2008 Florida Gators national champion team where he led the Gators in sacks. The Bengals acquisition of Dunlap could be the reason that Zimmer was comfortable with moving Michael Johnson to linebacker. Maybe the Bengals know that they have two Michael Johnsons now and are looking to spread the freak athleticism around the defense. Opposing quarterbacks are going to have to look twice to make sure that there aren't two pterodactyls in Bengals uniforms looking to take them down. Dunlap is another great player in the long list of talented defensive ends that will hopefully make the Bengals one of the best quarterback killing defenses in the NFL.