One of the biggest strengths of the Bengals' defense last year was the secondary and their ability to intercept passes.
In fact, Cincinnati's 20 picks in 2014 were the third most of any team. The Browns (21) and 49ers (23) were the only teams to intercept more passes.
Don't tell Paul Guenther that's good enough though. He knows his defense dropped several picks, which could have had them leading the league by a larger margin if the play had been made. That's why Guenther's emphasizing more turnovers with his unit this year, particularly with more interceptions.
"We have to make the play, because we were in a great position and we just have to finish by catching the football," said Guenther, via Cincinnati.com. "One of the emphasis of the spring, and I'm doing a different emphasis each day, is coming down with more interceptions when we get our hands on the ball. We had 20 interceptions last year and the leader was 23 (San Francisco). I pulled film of like 17-18 interceptions we dropped last year. When we get a chance to make those plays we have to make them, simple as that."
Guenther is right to be more demanding of his unit. Guys like Terence Newman and Emmanuel Lamur dropped a lot of easy passes that could have been game-changers.
The most obvious one came in Week 5 against the Patriots. In the first quarter with Cincinnati trailing 7-0, Lamur had a chance to turn the game's momentum in the first quarter when he bobbled and dropped an interception opportunity.
Had he caught the pass, he likely would have taken it in for a game-tying touchdown, which would have made it 7-7, and he knew it.
Instead, the bobble led to a third down, and on the very next play, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski converted a first down. One play later, Tom Brady completed a 17-yard touchdown to Tim Wright to put the Patriots up 14-0, which ultimately led to a 43-17 rout.
This was just one of many examples of missed opportunities that could have changed the outcomes of several games. Guenther knows how much one turnover can dramatically shift momentum in a game. That's why he doesn't want the sight of dropped interceptions haunting him at night like he likely experienced too often last year.