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Lou Anarumo’s path to turning around the Bengals’ defense

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Is Lou Anarumo just what the Bengals defense needs?

Cincinnati Bengals Rookie Camp Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

52-year old Lou Anarumo is not the young rising star that his head coach is. Anarumo didn’t have a meteoric rise up the NFL coaching ranks. He took a long and hard path to his first non-interim defensive coordinator position in the NFL.

He’s been praised by former players as a for his intelligence, leadership, and energy. Hopefully this is the new voice that the Bengals need to develop their young talent and game plan to defeat two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league.

Experience

  • 1989: Wagner (running backs)
  • 1990-1991: Syracuse (graduate assistant - defensive backs)
  • 1992-1994: Merchant Marine Academy (defensive coordinator/defensive backs)
  • 1995-2000: Harvard (assistant head coach/special teams coordinator/defensive backs)
  • 2001-2002: Marshall (defensive backs)
  • 2003: Marshall (special teams coordinator/defensive backs)
  • 2004-2011: Purdue (defensive backs)
  • 2012-2017: Miami Dolphins (defensive backs/interim defensive coordinator in 2015)
  • 2018: New York Giants (defensive backs)

Background

Anarumo started as a high school JV coach while finishing up his degree, then climbed the college ranks for 23 years before becoming the defensive backs coach of the Dolphins.

Along the way he worked for some very well respected coaches including Phil Elmassian, former Syracuse and New England Patriots head coach Dick MacPherson, current Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, and former Purdue head coach Joe Tiller.

His college coaching experience has not only exposed him to some great mentors, it gave him experience defending a wide variety of offenses. He was defending the spread offense long before it permeated into the NFL.

Anarumo was hired by Joe Philbin to coach the Dolphins defensive backs in 2012. Much like Zac Taylor, when things went south for Miami in 2015, Anarumo became the interim coordinator on defense. The Dolphins defense did not see any major changes statistically when Anarumo took over for Kevin Coyle for the last 12 games of the season.

2019 Outlook

Schematically, the Bengals will be relatively similar in 2019. The differences will come in its execution. The Bengals defensive personnel need to develop faster and be more consistent than they have in the past. Anarumo is noted as an excellent teacher who brings a great energy to his group, which could be a perfect fit.

Teryl Austin’s defense was a disaster last year, so the bar has been set pretty low. In 2018, the Bengals ranked dead-last in yards allowed and passing yards allowed.

Despite the defense’s poor performance against the pass, the secondary is actually pretty talented. Anarumo will be challenged with helping William Jackson establish himself as one of the league’s best and getting Dre Kirkpatrick to play more consistent opposite him.

Anarumo also has to figure out the future of the slot corner position, where one of the best run-defending corners out there, Darqueze Dennard, returns on a one-year deal but will compete with newcomer B.W. Webb. Making matters worse is Dennard is still recovering from an offseason knee scope and may open the season PUP, which will cost him at least the first six games.

Speaking of newcomers, there is a wealth of young talent that Anarumo will have a chance to develop. The Bengals spent three draft picks in the last two seasons on high potential cornerbacks Davontae Harris, Darius Phillips, and Jordan Brown, though it looks like only Phillips will be making the 53-man roster.

The Bengals have one of the best young deep -field safeties in the league in Jessie Bates, and Anarumo will need to develop his All-Pro potential. Shawn Williams and Clayton Fejedelem round out a solid position group.

The defensive backs definitely need to improve as tacklers, but the biggest problem with the pass game was the linebackers. Preston Brown was the best of the group last season, and that’s not saying much. His strength is defending the run, but he played better against the pass than his teammates. Anarumo will have the challenge of developing the team’s young linebackers including Nick Vigil, Jordan Evans, Malik Jefferson, and Germaine Pratt.

The defensive line has a great pair of veterans with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, while Carl Lawson will be healthy and ready to rock in Week 1. Anarumo will need to make better use out of him than the previous staff and maximize his talents as an elite pass rusher. He will also have to figure out what to do opposite Atkins, both on early downs and in pass rush situations. Wise usage and player development will be huge in this group that also includes Sam Hubbard, Jordan Willis, and Ryan Glasgow.

There’s a lot on Anarumo’s plate entering Year 1 in Cincinnati, and he was far from the first choice for the job. While most believed a more high-profile candidate would seem to be more qualified to turn things around, Anarumo’s humbling career path and contrasting coaching approach may be just what the Bengals need.