The Bengals defense is on notice after their recent struggles have helped lead to a 3-4-1 start.
While this clearly isn’t the 12-4 team of a year ago, this also is far too talented of a team to finish the year with a six or seven-win record, which is what they’re currently on pace for. We’ve not see the Bengals fail to reach the playoffs since 2010, and you could argue this Bengals team is better than several of the teams they’ve had since then, but thus far, the team has been unable to put it all together.
While the offense has had its issues, they’ve still been a top-10 unit for most of the year, and with Tyler Eifert back, the offensive should be the strength of this team going forward. If the defense can just be average going forward, even that could be enough for this team to win 5-6 games down the stretch and win the AFC North.
That is why defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is demanding things change, and he’s ready to take away playing time from certain players to make it happen. During the bye week, Guenther spent time watching every snap of the year and evaluating his players.
"I watched every individual player and I wrote some notes and I met with those guys about some things they need to clean up and hopefully we can get it done," Guenther told ESPN.
Ever since Guenther took over for Mike Zimmer in 2014, he’s kept the defense performing at a high level that was able to carry this team at times. But this year, they’ve been a hindrance more often than not, and Guenther is making sure that doesn’t continue coming out of the bye week.
"We just have to get back to doing [things] the way we do it, the way I'm used to seeing it all the time. It's not just going to show up on Sundays," Guenther said. "We've got to do it throughout the week. We've got to be in good tackling position, we've got to be staying on top of coverage, being good communicators in the coverage and stopping the run and rushing the passer.
“Those are the things that if we can do it -- and I think we can do it -- with whatever guys we have out there, for the next eight weeks I'm going to give them everything I've got."
You can feel the fire coming from Guenther just listening to him talk, and it sounds like the Bengals have seen enough of it recently to receive and understand the message they must improve or face repercussions going forward.
"Changes are going to come," safety George Iloka said Tuesday. "I just see it as we're not playing as well as a defense as we need to right now. They always say the definition of a crazy man is someone who does the same thing on and on and expects to get different results.”
Iloka has been part of the problem. Expected to step up this year with Reggie Nelson gone, Iloka has done nothing of the sort and has too often been a liability on coverage.
“Of course, they have to switch things up, whether it's personnel, play calling, plays, packages, whatever it may be. They're going to try to tweak it to get different results as they should because we haven't as a collective whole gotten it done."
It’s hard to guess what exactly the changes could entail, but it’s great to see Guenther is sending the message loud and clear, and his players seem to be responding to the challenge.
Guenther said that Tuesday was the best practice that Cincinnati has had defensively this season, which is great news with the explosive Giants offense on deck.