Marvin Lewis is back, but it’s clear there will still be big changes in Cincinnati.
One of the things that could change is who’s calling the defense, and what kind of defense is being called. Paul Guenther’s contract is up, and Lewis is hopeful to get him back under contract, but won’t wait around to see if Guenther is going to leave for the Raiders.
“Hopefully we will have an opportunity to get Paul back, but if not, we’ll move forward. Obviously where our season finished is not where we wanted, and we’ve got to get back at it,” Lewis said.
However, Lewis won’t wait long for Guenther, who has run a 4-3 defense during his three years with the Bengals. That’s also a scheme that Lewis isn’t committed to for next season, he revealed on Wednesday.
“We have the ability to do what we want to do,” he said when asked if he’d stay committed to a 4-3 defense.
It’s looking like Guenther will leave for another job, and it appears Lewis is already thinking about his next defensive coordinator, who may end up wanting to run a 3-4 defense in Cincinnati.
For essentially the entire time Lewis has been in Cincinnati, he’s run a 4-3 defense, which is more basic compared to the 3-4 defense. We’ve actually seen more NFL and college teams begin adopting hybrid schemes, which use a mixture of both the 3-4 and 4-3.
Given the Bengals’ personnel, a scheme favoring more 3-4 looks may actually be beneficial. Michael Johnson, who actually dabbled with playing linebacker as a rookie, could actually be a 3-4 defensive end, being that he was more of a combo end-tackle this past season, a role he actually did well end.
The key to 3-4 defensive lineman is maintaining gaps with less focus on the pass rush, which is pretty much the book on Johnson now. He’s no longer quick enough to be counted on as a pass-rusher, so he likely wouldn’t play as a 3-4 outside linebacker if the move is made.
Then you’ve got Geno Atkins, who would simply remain a defensive tackle in the 3-4. The big question would be at nose tackle, where Andrew Billings figures to have the edge at.
Carlos Dunlap could end up playing at one of the three down lineman, but it’s more likely he’d be a 3-4 outside linebacker, along with Carl Lawson on the opposite side. This would allow the Bengals to have a front seven capable of holding up against the run while also maximizing their pass-rushing potential.
Lawson is a great pass-rusher, but it’s hard to see him becoming a three-down defensive lineman. His best role in the NFL is likely as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
So, if the Bengals move to the 3-4, the front seven probably looks something like this:
- Left outside linebacker: Carl Lawson
- Left inside linebacker: Kevin Minter, Vincent Rey or Nick Vigil
- Right inside linebacker: Vontaze Burfict
- Right outside linebacker: Carlos Dunlap
- Defensive tackle: Geno Atkins
- Nose tackle: Andrew Billings
- Defensive end: Michael Johnson
Not too shabby. It looks even better if you can add someone like Roquan Smith to that second inside linebacker spot next to Burfict. It may be a bit of a learning curve for some of the players, but it could benefit the team.