The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best front sevens in football.
Not everyone believes that, however. That includes NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, who just put out his ranking of the 12 best front sevens in the NFL. Somehow, Rosenthal managed to keep Cincinnati off this list.
That’s wrong on so many levels. Sure, this unit struggled to play at an elite level in 2016, but they certainly had moments of dominance, especially when the star players were all on the field. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case, as star linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed the first three games of the season due to suspension.
He clearly wasn’t himself for the first several games in which he played, but as the season wore on, Burfict was back to his dominant self. That was evident from Weeks 10-14, a stretch of games in which the defense allowed an average of just 16 points per game.
However, a concussion led to Burfict missing the final two games, limiting him to just 11 games last season. Even without Burfict, the front seven still had stretches of dominance over teams, mostly because of Geno Atkins continuing to be one of the two or three best interior defensive linemen in football.
Atkins played at an All-Pro level in the middle and alone destroyed opponents’ game plans. It helped that he had one of the NFL’s better defensive ends in Carlos Dunlap on the edge. Dunlap has accounted for 21.5 sacks during the past two seasons, but perhaps his most impressive stat is the 15 pass deflections he had last year, an unreal number for any defensive lineman.
And while there may not be any other stars in this front seven, guys like Vincent Rey played great stretches of football. In fact, Pro Football Focus ranked Rey 14th among all linebackers (Burfict was seventh).
That’s not even accounting for the addition of veteran middle linebacker Kevin Minter, who should be a nice upgrade over Rey Maualuga, one of the consistent weaknesses of this front seven in past years.
There’s also the additions of Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson to upgrade the pass rush, which was easily the weakness of this defense in 2016. Those two were viewed among the best pass-rushers in this year’s NFL Draft, so adding them can only be a positive.
This front seven absolutely is one of the 12 best in football. Looking at the teams that actually made Rosenthal’s top 12, the Chiefs have no business being ahead of Cincinnati. Sure, Justin Houston is one of the best pass-rushers in football, but after him, it’s just a bunch of aging vets like Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali on their last legs, coupled with a bunch of good but not great players.
They don’t have three stars like the Bengals do in Dunlap, Atkins and Burfict. Another team in this ranking that has no business being ahead of Cincinnati is the Jets.
Sure, a front seven that includes Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson sounds scary, but they’ve shown they can’t be properly utilized together. Even if they were, that trio is clearly lesser than the Atkins-Dunlap-Burfict triumvirate.
There are many impressive front sevens in the NFL, but there’s no reason Cincinnati shouldn’t be somewhere among this list, which features the Jets (12), Chiefs (11), Rams (10), Eagles (9), Chargers (8), Steelers (7), Broncos (6), Giants (5), Vikings (4), Panthers (3), Seahawks (2) and Texans (1).
How would you rank the Bengals’ front seven?
This poll is closed
Not in top 12