Cincinnati’s defense has wildly underachieved through the first half of the 2016 season, and Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is now indicating that changes could be coming.
In speaking with the media Guenther spoke some potential personnel switches that could be coming:
“We have a lot of guys that have been here a long time, that have been fixtures in our system for a long time, but like I told them, it’s a production business,” Guenther said on Tuesday.
“Even though you’ve been kind of a guy that’s been here, if I think there’s going to be a younger player that I think can do it better at this point, whether it be for 15 more snaps, I’ve got to look at that because some of the guys that have been here, that have been fixtures here, for some reason or another, whether it’s age or whatever it is, they are not playing at a high level,” Guenther said. “And I’ve got to figure out where I can inject some other guys that can do it better or at least try to.”
When asked for specifics, the third-year defensive play-caller suggested third-round rookie linebacker Nick Vigil, rotational defensive end Will Clarke and former first-round corner Darqueze Dennard could see some more playing time.
“There is a certain loyalty to the guys that have been here, that have been the core players for us, but at the same time I have to do what’s best for the team,” Guenther said. “And, I think everyone in the room understands that.”
All we can do is speculate, but it seems as though Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga, Karlos Dansby and maybe even Adam Jones could see their workloads reduced in the upcoming weeks when the Bengals return to the field after the bye.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, as the veterans have very defined strengths and weaknesses. Johnson and Maualuga are best in obvious run situations, while their backups (Clarke and Vigil) aren’t as effective in run defense but appear to be improvements against the pass. Dansby’s play has been up-and-down, but at age 35, the veteran probably shouldn’t be on the field for as many snaps as he’s been playing.
Jones’ production and effectiveness have taken a hit since his stellar 2015 season, and perhaps a reduced workload would allow him to take more snaps on special teams where, prior to this season, he was a difference-making return specialist.
We’re speculating here, but perhaps Guenther might also take a look at Domata Peko, whose backups — Pat Sims in base personnel and Margus Hunt in nickel packages — have looked pretty good in rotation. With Brandon Thompson’s potential return to action nearing and an eager DeShawn Williams itching to see the field, the Bengals need to figure out what to do along the interior of the defensive line.
Marvin Lewis also said on Tuesday that the team will look at every area of the roster for improvement during the bye week and 13 days before the next game.
“That’s what we are right now, 3-4- 1,” Lewis said. “We have an opportunity to improve upon that, but we have to do the things we put in front of us each week per the opposition to do that, and do it consistently each and every time out. We have 13 days to get things right for the next one.”