The NFL is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league. When it comes to forcing turnovers, the Bengals are one of, if not the worst in the league.
That’s crazy to think after the amount of turnovers the Bengals forced during the days of Mike Zimmer and even the first couple of years under Paul Guenther. But over the last two seasons, the Bengals have found forcing turnovers almost as challenging as just winning games.
After all, the Bengals won seven games in 2017 while netting league-lows in forced fumbles (4) and fumble recoveries (3). They also grabbed just 11 interceptions, tied for 20th. That came in a season in which the Bengals lost four games by one score.
Had they just forced a few more turnovers, perhaps we’re talking about an eight or nine-win team. But alas, we’re talking about one that’s endured back-to-back losing seasons.
That has to change in a big way if the Bengals are going to get back to their winning ways in 2018. That’s also been a major offseason focus so far in OTAs.
As Richard Skinner of Local 12 writes, defenders getting their hands on the ball has been beaten to death, even on incomplete passes. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is demanding his defenders “scoop” the ball up whenever it’s on the ground, hoping that translate to more fumble recoveries and interceptions in 2018.
“You only get what you emphasize, so I think if you emphasize going after the ball every time it’s on the ground and develop a habit in a game you don’t run into that circumstance where you don’t go after the ball,” said Austin. “We just have to keep coaching it and eventually it will come to them.”
William Jackson was a shut-down cornerback in his first full season as a starter, but he only grabbed one interception and didn’t force a fumble. He’s embracing what Austin is trying to instill in this defense.
“That was crazy when he first taught it that way, but we know now what he wants to get accomplished so it’s all right,” said Jackson. “It’s just repetition. When you see the ball you just got to get it no matter what it is. We just keep doing it and keep doing it we’ll create more turnovers that way. We’re definitely thinking turnovers, and he’s definitely emphasizing turnovers. That’s what he wants so that’s what we’ve got to give him.”
The Bengals certainly picked the right man to fix their turnover woes. While in Detroit, Austin’s Lions finished tied for fourth in forced fumbles (19), tied for second in fumble recoveries (13) and tied for fourth in interceptions (19) in 2017.
That made his defense arguably the best in the NFL in forcing turnovers last season, and that’s what he does for the Bengals in 2018.