The Cincinnati Bengals’ defense reached record lows in 2018, but that doesn’t mean the entire unit was awful.
PFF ranked all of the NFL’s secondaries and placed the Bengals surprisingly high for a unit that gave up the most yards in franchise history.
In spite of all the lows from 2018, the Bengals secondary was ranked as the seventh-best secondary in the NFL.
As PFF explains,
While the defense as a whole didn’t live up to their early-season hype, much of that was due to a linebacking corps that gave up more yards in coverage than any other in the NFL. Rookie Jessie Bates looks like he’ll be a stud in Cincinnati for a while after allowing a passer rating of only 59.9 in his coverage this year.
Jessie Bates really was one of the bright spots on the defense, as the second-round pick became the first rookie to ever start at safety under Marvin Lewis. His impressive play also helped fellow safety Shawn Williams have a career year himself.
Moving closer to the line of scrimmage, the cornerbacks had some good moments this year as well. Even though William Jackson started off slow, he eventually rounded into his first-round form. Veteran slot corner Darqueze Dennard also had some great moments in 2018 and made his case to be re-sign with the team this offseason.
Another reason for why the top-10 ranking is surprising because injuries decimated the unit. Dre Kirkpatrick and Dennard each had bouts of injuries, so that meant Darius Phillips, Tony McRae, and KeiVarae Russell had to put in more time than anyone expected. For all intents and purposes, all three were adequate when called upon to play. Kirkpatrick displayed his usual inconsistencies, but 2018 ended up being a decent year for him as well.
PFF hit the nail on the head in criticizing the linebacker corps, as they were the thorn in the Bengals’ side from Week 1. This is why Devin White has been linked to the Bengals in so many mock drafts up to this point.
Hopefully, the Bengals can draft or sign some help in the front seven to shore up their defense. A new defensive coordinator with Lewis out of the picture could also mean a scheme that forces the ball to the outside and put their linebackers in better positions to succeed.
If that happens, this secondary could really be a force to be reckoned with and have some quality production to go along with it.