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What will the Bengals’ defensive scheme look like in 2019?

Cincinnati’s defensive staff is in place and it’s not totally clear what scheme we’ll see the most this year.

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Since the beginning of the Zac Taylor era in Cincinnati, the Bengals have flirted with a number of defensive coordinators with differing backgrounds. Some were 3-4 guys, while others were part of 4-3-style defenses that have been a little different than those we’ve traditionally seen under Marvin Lewis.

Lou Anarumo ended up getting the gig under Taylor and he doesn’t appear to be married to one particular look.

Still, there is a fine line for Anarumo to walk here. Obviously, he needs to shake things up and replenish talent on a defensive unit that was at or near the bottom of every major statistical category for that side of the ball. And, the new talent has to obviously fit his vision.

But, the Bengals do have some marquee players on that side of the ball, despite the struggles last year. Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, William Jackson, Jessie Bates and Shawn Williams all had outstanding seasons, in one form or another last year. Anarumo will undoubtedly look to play to that group’s respective strengths, as well.

Aside from that part of the equation, the Bengals rounded out the rest of their defensive staff right before the NFL Combine. Tem Lukabu will head up the linebacker group, while Nick Eason will coach the defensive line.

So, what should we expect the 2019 Anarumo defense to look like on a regular basis?

A more effective unit than the one we saw under Teryl Austin notwithstanding, we had some thoughts about it on this week’s Orange and Black Insider. Co-host John Sheeran figured there will be at least some similarities to the traditional scheme seen under Lewis.

“They’re going to be rushing four guys and dropping seven into coverage for 70% of the snaps,” Sheeran said. “Whether it’s with four down linemen or three down linemen for the 20 or so snaps when the team is in its ‘base packages’, I don’t think it’s changing that much.

“Hopefully, they work on their scheme a little bit with their linebackers and put them in a better position to make plays—that would be the best jump,” he continued. “As for the front six or seven and how they’re going to attack it—I don’t think it’s going to change that much.”

We both agreed that it is interesting how the assistants on staff have experience in 3-4 systems and that could cause a little bit more variety than what we’ve become accustomed to under Lewis. But, overall this defense will operate out of the “nickel formation” often.

That nickel formation is what teams have largely had to adjust to in today’s NFL. More and more offenses have trotted out multiple pass-catching options in their schemes, causing defenses to put a premium on defenders who can get after the passer, as well as those who can cover in space.

The latter plays to Anarumo’s coaching strengths, as he just recently came from the Giants as their secondary coach. If Darqueze Dennard is retained in free agency, he’ll have five “starters” in the secondary who were previously drafted in rounds 1-3.

The Dennard re-signing facet is one to keep an eye on this offseason, to be sure. If the Bengals do want to have three corners on the field in most packages, all three will need to be able-bodied guys in space. If Dennard chases a big payday and/or another opportunity elsewhere, the team may need to put cornerback on its draft priority list to fit Anarumo’s scheme.

Also on this week’s show:

  • Anarumo is officially the team’s defensive coordinator and he has added Eason and Lukabu to his staff. What do we make of the moves?
  • John Ross was reported to be on the trading block, but those rumors were debunked by Taylor and Duke Tobin at the NFL Combine. Should we believe them?
  • What are the pros and cons to trading Ross? Should the team even think about it?
  • Which Bengals figureheads would you like to see a documentary on in the future?
  • Could and should the Bengals try to trade for Josh Rosen?
  • What will the Bengals’ defensive scheme look like in 2019?
  • What is the most important game on the 2019 schedule?

Our thanks to all of the live listeners and to those who submitted questions!

If you’re unable to join us live for here at Cincy Jungle or YouTube every episode, all Orange and Black Insider content is available here on CJ, the Stitcher and Google Play Music apps, our YouTube channel, as well as through Megaphone and, as always, on iTunes! You can tweet us @BengalsOBI or get in touch with us via email at Thanks for listening and go subscribe to our channels!