For three straight offseasons, Wallace Gilberry has prepared for a new role within the Bengals' defense.
In 2013, Gilberry was entering just his first full year in Cincinnati after joining the team three games into the 2012 season. His role was simply as a situational pass-rusher who gave Michael Johnson and/or Carlos Dunlap a breather while also occasionally lining up at defensive tackle on obvious passing downs. That was a role Gilberry thrived in while racking up 15 sacks over his first 31 games with the Bengals.
However, Johnson left in free agency last offseason, forcing Gilberry into a full-time role he wasn't suited for in 2014. More snaps wore Gilberry down, to the point he didn't have as much gas to rush the passer. He also didn't get to rush from the inside as much with two quality pass-rushers drawing attention on the outside.
With Johnson now back, Gilberry could go back to his situational role, which allowed him to save most of his energy for pass-rushing. That said, Gilberry is always willing to reinvent himself into whatever is best for the team, and this year is no different.
"I've been like that since I've been in the league," Gilberry said, via ESPN. "I'm always proving myself and always having to reinvent myself. Everybody should feel like that, starter or not. You have to go out and compete, and you have to go out and reinvent yourself every year. Because at the end of the year, it may be the same guys, but we're definitely a new team. It's a new feeling, a new mindset."
The Bengals love having versatility on their team, but especially in the trenches. Having a guy like Gilberry who can line up inside to rush passes allows the Bengals to keep him on the field with Dunlap and Johnson on passing downs, to get their three best pass-rushers on the field at the same time.
This play against the Colts last year was just one example of how that lineup could work (even though they didn't have MJ):
Notice how Gilberry starts from the inside, but he and Dunlap execute a beautiful stunt that nearly results in a safety. This is the kind of lineup Cincinnati can use more of now with Johnson back in the fold, which should have the Bengals once again terrifying opposing QBs in 2015.