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A new role is just what Renell Wren needs to breakout

Wren could take a big step forward in his second year.

Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T. Ludwig/Getty Images

A second year Arizona State product, Renell Wren, or “Mount Wren” as defensive line coach Nick Eason calls him, is an ideal 3-4 nose tackle with the versatility to play multiple roles in multiple defenses.

With excellent coaching and hard work, Wren is poised to take a big step forward in 2020.

Renell Wren

Height: 6-5

Weight: 315

Age: 24

College: Arizona State

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Experience: two years

Cap Status

Wren is entering the second year of his rookie contract. He is set to make $675,000 this season and counts $845,649 against the cap. If they release him, the team will incur a $511,947 cap hit.


After seeing time as a reserve defensive lineman at Arizona State in 2016 and 2017, Wren moved into a starting role for his senior season. Wren was technically considered a nose tackle, but first-year head coach Herm Edwards and defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales ran a versatile defensive scheme that asked a lot of Wren.

His power was certainly the strength of his game. When he lined up head-up on the center, Wren could control the block and would often drive his opponent deep into the backfield. However, he also has the quickness to shoot gaps and win with speed. He was moved around in various alignments, showing the versatility to contribute in multiple defensive fronts.

The Bengals selected Wren in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and wasn’t expected to play much as a rookie. He grew into a limited role and played only 15% of the defensive snaps.

Outlook for 2020

When I dug deep into Wren’s film following his selection, I was struck by one thought, “Are the Bengals going to run a 3-4 defense?”

As we now know, while they spent most of their time in a four-man front nickel defense, the team’s “base” defense shifted from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in 2019. Wren struck me as the ideal 0-technique/nose tackle. He has the strength to play two gaps and penetrate the backfield with his bull rush, although he needs to get more consistent disengaging from blocks.

While he has the ideal skillset to play head-up on the center, he has the versatility to play multiple positions along the defensive line. This makes him a great fit for the Bengals who play multiple defensive fronts. He could be counted on to play in the A, B, or C Gap in either a three or four-man defensive front.

While there have been massive changes on the defense, D.J. Reader was the only major addition to the defensive line. This speaks volumes about how the Bengals see their depth and developmental prospects up front.

Wren has strength, speed, and versatility. Under the tutelage of Coach Eason, Wren is a likely candidate to take a big step forward in his second year. The Bengals have been outspoken about the need to limit Geno Atkins‘s snaps. This provides an opportunity for someone like Wren to get heavily involved in the rotation with Atkins, Reader, and Josh Tupou.

Roster Odds

Wren was a minimized role player last season and still needs to establish himself as a valuable contributor on this defense. The Bengals do have only a moderate commitment to Wren in terms of either financial or draft capital. Although it is unlikely, if he moves the wrong direction on the depth chart during training camp, the team could move on.

However, Wren has the skill set to push for more time and could make a leap in 2020.

Roster Odds: 80%