After watching a struggling and underperforming defensive line through the first eight games of the 2016 season, the Bengals went out during the bye week and signed former Cincinnati defensive end Wallace Gilberry.
A nine year veteran out of Alabama, Gilberry joined the Bengals midway through the 2012 NFL season after being cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gilberry quickly became a key player among the defensive line rotation, and that’s the role the Bengals are hoping he’ll once again take on. Gilberry was a free agent this offseason before signing with the Lions. He was placed on Injured Reserve after four weeks of the season and was later released with an injury settlement. The Bengals opted to part ways with Chris Lewis-Harris to make room for Gilberry on the roster. And for the second year in a row, the Ravens claimed a waived Bengals player as they scooped up Lewis-Harris off waivers.
Gilberry is expected to come in and quickly contribute, especially seeing as how Michael Johnson sat out during Tuesday’s practice. One player who knows Gilberry well and is excited to have the defensive end back in Cincinnati is Domata Peko.
“He plays from sideline to sideline and we’re excited to have him back because that’s one of the things we need to improve on,” Peko told Cincinnati.com. “It’s good to have him back here, someone who knows the system, knows that we have chemistry with him and we know what he does.”
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther also shared his thoughts on how Gilberry will be used and why he was signed this week.
“In this league, you can never have enough rushers,” Guenther said. “Where you can bring guys in waves and can be effective.”
“(Gilberry) “knows what we’re doing,” Guenther added via Bengals.com. “He kind of picked up the Xs and Os where he left off. He’s in really good shape. We had him practice today and hopefully he can help us Monday night.”
One person who has benefited from Gilberry’s absence during the first half of the year is Will Clarke. Clarke has seen an increase in playing time this season after sitting behind Gilberry on the depth chart for the last two seasons.
“It will probably just allow all of us to rotate, depending who’s up and who’s down, to just help each other out, to be able to help out Mike (Johnson) and Carlos (Dunlap),” Clarke said. “We just have to work together. That’s how I’m looking at it, just working together. At the end of the day, it’s not going to be one or two guys that lead you to the promised land, it’s going to be a group of guys working together.”
The Bengals have 16 sacks so far this year, which ranks 21st in the NFL. If Gilberry can come in, offer more of a pass rush and get to opposing quarterbacks, it would quickly make his signing a good one.
“It’s always good to add, especially at this point in the season,” Clarke said. “It can only help.”
Hopefully, Gilberry will start helping the Bengals in Week 10 against the Giants.