If you're tasked with a question, asking what is the strongest part about the Cincinnati Bengals, most of you will conclusively answer with the defensive line. And you should. Unless you're one of those youngsters that tries to disrupt the establishment. Go ahead. Try. Since we're paying the bills, we're proposing the question back to you.
Of the 51 quarterback sacks in the NFL last season, which ranked third in the league, 46 were recorded by defensive linemen. Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson generated double-digit numbers, and four players generated at least six.
The entire defensive line is returning for an encore performance, lead by Geno Atkins with Johnson, who signed a franchise contract earlier this summer, and Carlos Dunlap, the recipient of a five-year extension that will keep him in Cincinnati through 2018.
And it's just not the pass rushing affect that makes Cincinnati's defensive unit dominant. They've become stronger against the run. Michael Johnson has progressively improved to the point that he's a balanced defensive end. Atkins can disrupt a run just as effectively as he does a pass. And Domata Peko is a good one-technique 4-3 defensive tackles that demands two blockers during most plays.
Would you offer an alternative? Say wide receiver, led by one of the best talents in the league in A.J. Green. Second-year players like Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are ready to make second-year strides, and Andrew Hawkins always factors as a possible threat (despite not really being a threat after week three). Now you have Cobi Hamilton, Dane Sanzenbacher, Ryan Whalen, and Brandon Tate vying for two spots at the bottom of the wide receiver roster.
Not bad. But we'd only argue that wide receiver has the potential to be great. We already know that the defensive line has settled into that role.