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Wallace Gilberry on Life Without Michael Johnson; Bengals' Next Step

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Andy Lyons

The Cincinnati Bengals have made the playoffs three straight years and four of the past five seasons due in large part to their defense. In those four seasons, Cincinnati's D ranked ninth or better in both points and yards allowed. It's not been because of a unit loaded with stars either.

While Geno Atkins is one of the best defenders in the game, there have been plenty of role players who've consistently made an impact in the limited snaps they've gotten.

As a reserve signed off the street after the start of the 2012 season, Gilberry was one of the best pass-rushers to come off the bench for any team. You don't see many non-starters get seven sacks, but that's what Gilberry did that year in 14 games, all of them coming between Weeks 6-17 in just 353 snaps.

Gilberry received more playing time in 2013, noticing nine sacks in 548 snaps. With the loss of Michael Johnson, Gilberry knows that leaves a big void to fill.

"It's going to be different," Gilberry said of playing in Cincinnati without Johnson, "but at the same time, we've got the guys in place and they went and got some guys that can help us win. We've got a job to do. We kind of hate to see him go, but we're happy for him with his situation. We're just going to go out there and do what we do best and that's rush the passer and stop the run, and let (quarterback) Andy Dalton and (wide receiver) A.J. Green take care of the offense."

As to what the next step is for Cincinnati, who has failed to win a playoff game:

"There's no secret," Gilberry said. "Just doing what you're told to do. Football is a tough game that anybody can win. We play it to win, but not everybody will win. It's exciting to go back out and get with the guys and do what we do best."

Gilberry is happy to be in Cincinnati. Not only is he playing for a team that most favor to go back to the postseason for the fourth straight season, but he's also in the company of four other Alabama alumni.

"We've got four guys on the active roster, and that's pretty cool to be from one school," Gilberry said. "Myself, AJ McCarron, Dre Kirkpatrick and Andre Smith, and all of us can contribute, so it's exciting."

There's a chance Gilberry could be one of the two starting defensive ends when the 2014 season opens, though the Bengals prefer to keep him on the bench. That keeps him fresher to rush the passer when he's in, and he also gets snaps at defensive tackle.

Either way, Gilberry will be relied on more this year than any point in his previous two seasons in Cincinnati.