The Bengals have lost two straight, and in the NFL, that is considered a slump.
Sometimes when teams and/or players get into a slump, they try and find an excuse for why they're not playing up to their potential. It looks like the Bengals are having a little case of such this week.
According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, Bengals defensive backs Kevin Coyle is drawing the ire of his secondary, causing friction among several players who don't seem sold on Coyle's techniques.
Here is part of the report:
Word out of Cincinnati is that there’s already friction in the defensive backs meeting room, which he leads.
They might have a point. The Bengals have gotten torched this year in a way they hadn’t under now-Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
The secondary has already allowed nine passing touchdowns, second-most in the league. New Broncos starter Trevor Siemian torched the Bengals Sunday for 312 yards and four scores in Denver’s 29-17 road victory. The Bengals surrendered two touchdown passes over 40 yards Sunday; they gave up just six pass plays of that length in each of Joseph’s last two years in Cincinnati.
Players are particularly upset with some of Coyle’s technique instructions; at least one player believes he’s coaching them not to lose instead of coaching them to win.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Dolphins players privately (and at times, even publicly) were critical of Coyle’s scheme and the way he interacted with him. One Dolphins player who was personally fond of Coyle said Monday that he wasn’t surprised that friction has followed him to a new city.
This season, Coyle is back with the Bengals as their defensive backs coach, a role he previously served in from 2003-2011 before becoming defensive coordinator of the Dolphins from 2012-15. He was fired in October 2015 after the Dolphins started the season 1-3. Coyle is now working with a Bengals defense that finished fourth in opposing yards per pass attempt (6.6), second in opposing passing scores (18), and third in interceptions (21) in 2015.
After Sunday's 29-17 loss to the Broncos, the Bengals rank 15th in opposing yards per pass attempt (7.1), 10th in interceptions (3), and have allowed the second-most touchdown passes (9) of any team.
As mentioned above, this isn't the first time Coyle has coached the Bengals' secondary. During his tenure, Coyle developed one of the NFL's top cornerback tandems of the late 2000s in Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph.
Coyle also helped develop Deltha O'Neal into a first-team All-Pro selection in 2005, the year he tied the NFL-high with 10 interceptions. From 2003-10, the Bengals grabbed 150 interceptions, the fifth-most in the NFL. Of those 150 picks, 125 were snagged by defensive backs.
Coyle's impact was most felt in his final season in the Queen City when the Bengals' defense ranked seventh overall in 2011, which was mainly due to their ninth-ranked pass defense, despite grabbing just 10 interceptions.
I think it's clear Coyle has had enough success in the NFL that he alone cannot be blamed for the Bengals' secondary woes thus far. After all, two of his top three corners in Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard, missed time this offseason while recovering from surgeries. And Dennard missed most of training camp with an ankle injury.
The one curious decline has been with Adam Jones, who was a Pro Bowl selection last year, but also has struggled in giving up big plays over the first three weeks. However, one point of note is that Jones turns 33-years-old this week.
Another change from last year to this year is that the Bengals are without Leon Hall, who is doing well in New York as the Giants' slot corner. That's clearly hurt the Bengals with Dennard struggling in the slot thus far.
All of this is why I'm not pinning the Bengals' early-season struggles on Coyle. If this continues throughout the season, then we can re-hash this, but for now, this is nothing more than 'noise' that we can probably keep on the backburner for now.