Even in some of the questionable years, the Cincinnati Bengals’ defense has carried the team to the postseason. Whether it was in 2009, 2011 or 2012, the Bengals’ defense was the catalyst to a playoff berth.
However, when it comes to analyzing the shortcomings of the team over the past two playoff-less seasons, blame can be pointed in a number of areas. The team’s No. 30 ranking against the run is something that hindered the club, while they also struggled to get off of the field on third down.
In an offseason where the team has made both significant changes and stuck with the status quo, it’s hard to say exactly where the Bengals’ defense resides. Given the overhaul at so many positions, are they actually better than they’ve been in years past?
Adam Jones: Pacman might be a guy the team looks to during training camp, but it appears as if the team has moved on. It’s a wise strategy on a number of fronts—mostly because of age and the amount of investments the team has in the position.
For now, the Bengals are rolling with what they have and it might be an upgrade. William Jackson III has been receiving massive amounts of love this offseason, so he has a large-sized pair of shoes to fill.
Pat Sims: There are a bunch of Bengals fans who have let Sims’ contributions gone unappreciated, but, nevertheless, he isn’t a staple this year. He’s been a great rotational guy, but the club seems to have found ample replacements.
Andrew Billings is the guy who appears to have grabbed the torch from Sims, but he has to make some big leaps in 2018. Regardless, the Bengals will be looking for someone to pair up with Geno Atkins as a big space-eater—particularly against the run.
Chris Smith: Hue Jackson decided to poach his former employers for a player who had a great season in a contract year. After an insane preseason, Smith finished with three sacks as a rotational player.
Cincinnati pursued him in free agency, but they decided that a cheaper and younger option was the way to go. Regardless, the Bengal will see Smith twice in 2018.
Kevin Minter: Marvin Lewis and his relationship with linebackers paves an odd tale. Of course, Ray Lewis is the shining beacon in his resume, but somehow he has yet to find the same magic in the Queen City.
Though the Bengals have often sought the enforcer in the middle of their defense, their packages say otherwise. After a one-year experiment, the Bengals allowed Minter to walk.
Preston Brown: After a disappointing campaign from Minter, the Bengals decided to replace him with the 2017 tackle leader. Brown isn’t known for his game-breaking plays, but he should be a great supplemental piece.
Part of the issues with the Bengals’ defense against the run was in their inability to tackle. Even though Brown won’t flip games with massive turnovers, the team should disallow big plays with Brown’s tackling ability.
Malik Jefferson: The team spent a third round pick on another athletic linebacker and we’ll see if it pays off. Going back to 2015, P.J. Dawson and others have tried to be game-changers, but none have paid off.
Jefferson has some work to do, in terms of acclimating to the NFL game, but he has immense upside. He’s big, rangy and could be a great linebacker in years to come.
Jessie Bates III: The Bengals and new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin want turnovers. Few college defensive players have forced more turnovers in their college career than Bates.
He’s probably going to be a rotational guy, but Bates will get snaps in 2018. And, if his Wake Forest career has anything to say about it, he should continue to make those game-changing plays.
Davontae Harris: It’s hard to point to a fifth round selection as a guy who can turn a defense around, but Harris fits the mold of an “Austin guy”. He’s grinding for a spot, but could find a nice niche in the defense.
Darius Phillips: Austin wants turnovers and big plays, and few collegians have sparked as many big plays as Phillips. He will also be working hard for a roster spot, but if he shines this spring, the Bengals’ defense could add a nice spark.
Chris Baker: Though the Bengals aren’t very active in free agency, they showed a proactive nature before the early-March frenzy. Though he isn’t known as a run-stopper like Sims et al, he does have a background in disrupting the passer.
Sam Hubbard: Smith bailing to Cleveland was kind of a big deal this offseason. Even though he wasn’t a starter, Cincinnati has always coveted a rotational pass-rusher.
Whether it was Frostee Rucker, Jonathan Fanene, Wallace Gilberry, or Smith, those niche rushers are valuable. While some believe Hubbard has future starter ability, in 2018 he’ll be used in Smith’s old role.
Is the Bengals’ 2018 defense improved from last year?
This poll is closed