2014 Depth Chart (4)
Starters: Geno Atkins, Domata Peko
Backups: Brandon Thompson, Devon Still
PS: David King
The Bengals 2014 defensive line was a disappointment of great proportions. They finished dead last in sacks (20), they had issues stopping the run for most of the year and they made few plays all year long. While the ends got most of the criticism, the tackles were just as bad. Geno Atkins, in his first year back from a torn ACL, didn’t look like himself until late in the year and was even describe by his defensive coordinator as "just a guy out there." Domata Peko continued to frustrate fans with his inability to make plays and often times looked overmatched. Brandon Thompson showed flashes, but lacked consistency and Devon Still was not NFL ready. It all added up to a disappointing 2014 in the middle of the defensive line.
With the exception of Adrian Peterson, most players need a full season before returning to their former selves after tearing an ACL. Toward the end of 2014 we started to see flashes of the old Geno Atkins and I believe we will see the old Atkins in 2015 – and let’s hope so, as Guenther wasn’t the only one unimpressed with Atkins’ play in 2014. When Atkins is healthy, he occupies two, and sometimes even three blockers, and frees up opportunities for the other defensive lineman. With Atkins healthy, we should see better seasons from guys like Gilberry, Hunt, Johnson and Dunlap.
Peko has been a great leader for this team and a great person in the community, but his play is no longer that of a starting NFL tackle – and is borderline roster worthy. In fact, if the Bengals draft a DT in the first two rounds, I believe Peko will be the odd man out on cut down day.
Thompson has shown flashes that he can be an above average defensive tackle, but his play is inconsistent and he has had issues staying healthy. However, if healthy, I believe Thompson is the tackle staring next to Atkins on opening day.
The signing of Sims is a solid and won’t get the attention it deserves. Sims is a solid run stuffing tackle and has an outside chance of starting next to Atkins. At worst, he will be a solid rotational guy to bring in on running downs. Either way, this signing added a lot depth to a position of weakness and very well may have altered the Bengals’ draft day plans.
Off-the-field, there wasn’t a better story surrounding the 2014 Bengals than Devon and Leah Still. On-the-field, Still was not performing at the level of an NFL defensive tackle. If Still cannot re-capture the form which saw him win the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and earn him a 2nd round pick (53rd overall), his Cinderella story may be over in Cincinnati.
2015 Positional Free Agency Outlook
The Sims signing surprised me, but was a solid signing. However, any other additions to the defensive tackle position will come via the draft.
2015 Positional Draft Outlook
The Bengals will take a defensive tackle in the draft, and even with the signing of Sims, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a first or second round defensive tackle. Possible targets would be Malcolm Brown (1st), Eddie Goldman (1st), Michael Bennett (2nd) or Carl Davis (2nd).
General Roster Makeup: 4 Defensive Tackles
2015 Roster Prediction (4):
Atkins, Thompson, Sims, Rookie
PS (1): Rookie
2015 Positional Stock Outlook: Up.
With Atkins presumably healthy coupled with the signing of Sims, I think the defensive tackle position looks good for 2015. However, I would like to see the Bengals take a first or second round defensive tackle and possibly solidify the position for the next 3-4 years.