With Mike Zimmer now at the helm of the Minnesota Vikings, the Bengals will now rely on Paul Guenther to coordinate their defense in 2014. He's got a big pair of shoes to fill, but he was groomed by Zimmer to eventually get his role, and the Bengals wasted little time naming him the DC once Zimmer departed.
As for the defense, Geoff Hobson believes that Guenther will be blitzing more than his predecessor.
On defense, the sense is that new coordinator Paul Guenther is going to blitz more than Mike Zimmer. Guenther’s passion is finding matchups the offense can’t counter. But other than that, you’ve got 10 starters back in the same system for the third-ranked defense. Just tweak it.
So how exactly could the Bengals blitz more while remaining efficient and not giving up a ton of big-plays?
Under Zimmer, one position that never got a lot of production in terms of pass-rushing was linebacker. Using Vontaze Burfict to blitz more could change that.
Per Pro Football Focus, Burfict was credited with five quarterback hits, nine hurries, and 64 defensive snaps in 2013. He did that in just 85 pass-rush snaps, giving him a 14.7 'Pass Rushing Productivity' rating by PFF.
That was the 21st-best out of 55 linebackers who blitzed last season, and the 10th-best out 30 backer who played in at least 23% of their team's snaps.
If Guenther was to make this defense harder to plan for, he needs to bring pressure from the linebackers more than Zimmer did.
To be fair though, Burfict was the best coverage backer the Bengals had last year, In 2013, Burfict's 11.8 pass coverage grade was the best on the Bengals defense. The next best by a backer was Vincent Rey's 3.2 grade. James Harrison (cut this offseason) was next at 1.5.
Obviously, the Bengals don't want to take Burfict out of coverage too much, but that could change with Emmanuel Lamur now back and healthy. Lamur was touted as the best coverage linebacker the Bengals had going into the 2013 season, but a torn shoulder labrum in the preseason finale cost him the entire season.
Having Lamur and/or Rey drop into coverage while Burfict blitzes could be something we see a lot of in 2014.