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With Teryl Austin gone the Bengals must focus in on key areas of weakness and make changes

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We’re not sure if firing Teryl Austin will matter at this point, but if the Bengals wanted to salvage their season, a change was needed.

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NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

It took 308 days.

ESPN reporter Josina Anderson broke the story Monday morning, reporting that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin was out, 308 days after being hired. This comes after the Bengals allowed 130 points in the last three games, including an embarrassing 51 points against the New Orleans Saints where the defense didn’t stop New Orleans once. Cincinnati has allowed 500-plus yards in three straight games, the first team to reach that milestone during the Super Bowl era. They’re also on-pace to allow 7,272 yards — an NFL record (though the offenses they’re going to face soon are significantly worse than the Saints and Chiefs and even the Bucs).

It took 308 days for the Bengals defense to go from mid-range in 2017 to basement dwellers in 2018. It was an epic regression, with a once-feared Mike Zimmer defense (never allowing one 500-yard effort) completely collapsing into... this. That’s despite having many of the same players Zimmer had during his final seasons in Cincinnati.

It didn’t help that the 529.3 yards allowed per game during the last four contests were against four of the top five offenses in the NFL — the only offense currently in the top-five that Cincinnati hasn’t played is the Los Angeles Rams.

It also didn’t help their starting linebackers and a nickel corner have been shelved with injuries. Starting linebacker Nick Vigil has been recovering from an MCL sprain since mid-October. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard suffered a sternoclavicular joint injury that nearly led to emergency surgery. Vontaze Burfict, who has played two-plus games (earning a $112,000 fine during that period), is recovering from a hip injury; that came after spending September suspended.

Who stepped up?

Well, no one.

It thirdly didn’t help when Austin’s schemes failed to mask the vulnerabilities that these injuries created. There’s no creativity with the team’s pass rush, leaving quarterbacks comfortable in the pocket to pick apart Cincinnati’s coverage... coverages that featured a backup linebacker like Jordan Evans on wide receivers like the Saints’ Michael Thomas and Keith Kirkwood. Sean Payton’s schemes even created spacing for Mark Ingram, who posted 58 yards receiving — 55 of those yards with Evans in tow.

That’s not to say Austin is a bad coach — you don’t coach in the NFL for nearly 20 years if you’re not capable of the job. As a play-caller, his defenses have left much to be desired, especially in Cincinnati.

In the end, it never felt like a fit. Austin’s schemes didn’t fit the players’ skillsets, and no one capably adjusted to build something better.

Focusing on turnovers, in today’s NFL, makes sense on paper. The Bengals defense has generated 13 turnovers through nine games this season, compared to eight (through nine games) in 2017, 12 in 2016, and 13 in 2015. In that regard, they’ve improved.

However, when you’re allowing 454.6 yards/game (nearly 35 yards more than the second-worst defense in the NFL, Cleveland), you’re giving opposing offenses significant opportunities to score points. Against the Steelers, Chiefs, and Saints, the Bengals defense allowed scores on 20 of 27 drives, including 14 touchdowns.

When Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the game, the Buccaneers took an 18-point deficit and tied the game with just more than one minute remaining. Even against the Atlanta Falcons, another game Cincinnati won, the defense allowed scores on seven of 10 possessions.

If the Bengals wanted to salvage their 5-4 record, a change was needed. Their schemes under Austin were depreciating in production. Cincinnati needs to center its schemes around Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and their core of impactful rookies. More importantly, they need schemes that hides their vulnerabilities with intermediate routes, parameter running lanes, and running backs in the passing game.

Who knows if Marvin Lewis, reportedly taking over defensive play-calling, is capable of overcoming the talent discrepancy on the field.

We do know that Austin wasn’t.

Poll

What do you think about the Bengals decision to fire Teryl Austin?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    It's about time!
    (2639 votes)
  • 23%
    It's okay, but I don't see what it changes
    (829 votes)
  • 1%
    I wish they would've given him more time
    (68 votes)
3536 votes total Vote Now