Most Bengals fans are mainly focused on one thing: Carson Palmer's trade request and the uncertainty of who exactly will be taking snaps for the Bengals in 2011. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer isn't "most Bengals fans," though. He couldn't care less who's taking the snaps for the Bengals in 2011. According to Geoff Hobson, the voice of the mother ship, the only thing he's worried about is his defense and getting them back to the way they were in 2009.
"Right now we're not that," Zimmer fumed earlier this week at the combine. "They might have to get Joe Namath in here. Right now we ain't a good defense … I'm not worried one iota about the offense; we've got our own closet to clean up."
After the Bengals fell from the fourth ranked defense in 2009 to No. 15 in 2010, Zimmer tore up his depth chart, partly because he was completely underwhelmed with his defense and partly because he has no idea who will be a Bengal in 2011 and who won't be.
"Everybody's in danger; we were 4-12," he said. "I'm in danger, they're in danger. Trust me. It's not scheme. It's not personnel. It's paying attention to detail. It's doing things the proper way all the time. Not half the time. We were trying to become the '85 Bears and not being the 2010 Cincinnati Bengals."
Zimmer said that his defense was so focused on things they wanted to do instead of focused on being fundamentally sound. That's what he believes caused his defense to fall from the top five into the middle of the pack and allow 12 straight teams to have a run of 20 yards or more in 2010 (the first team to do that in 52 years) when they only allowed three teams to do that in 2009. He believes that the Bengals, especially the defense, beat themselves in many of their 2010 losses.
"We tried to figure out the next greatest invention instead of worrying about if we had air in the tires," Zimmer said. "We were trying to live up to everyone else's expectations, including mine, and we were going to be the most feared team, we were going to create all these turnovers, we were going to do all this crap and not do what we do. I've said all along since I've been here we're going to be a sound fundamental defensive team that's going to make it hard when you play us. If they beat us, they beat us, but we're not going to beat ourselves. Consequently, a lot of times last year we beat ourselves. That's a disappointing thing to me. I kind of got away from what my beliefs are a little bit."
The Bengals defense faces glaring holes at the safety position and on the defensive line. Zimmer isn't focused on the draft or free agency to fix the defense's problems. He says he's going to fix the problems himself.
"I'm going to fix it with any means necessary. I'm going to fix it. We're not going to reads our press clippings," he said. "We don't have to get anything new. We've got to do what we do better."