The Bengals struggled against the run in 2019, so they spent almost $74 million to bring in D.J. Reader, Vonn Bell, and Josh Bynes.
But in the first two games of 2020, the Bengals gave up over 350 rushing yards. The defense looks far from fixed.
“Rome wasn’t built in a night,” said Bell, who was elected as a captain before the season started. “You just have to keep on harping on it every day. It has to be contagious. It has to be oozing out. It has to be guys wanting to get better. It has to be all in, everybody, coaches, too. I think we’re getting to that point where we need to turn the page and keep on turning it.”
“It was a combination of a lot of things and that can’t happen in football,” Bynes said, also a team captain. “You got too many things going on. Not making the right plays and not making tackles when we need to. At least when you get them down, we can fix it and talk about it on the sidelines, stuff like that. It was just not a great showing at all [Thursday] night.”
The issues in the run game became clear on Thursday night’s class with the Browns. Cleveland racked up over 200 yards on the ground. Even late in the fourth quarter, when the Bengals needed a stop most and knew the Browns were going to run, they gave up almost 60 rushing yards on two straight plays to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
“We are all pros here,” Bell said. “We just have to keep on getting better each and every day. Come in with a mindset and a task that it’s your job when you walk into the building, hold each other accountable and just keep on going.
“For sure. It’s only our second game playing together, just trying to get the ins and outs of each other and playing off each other. At the end of the day we all as one and when we step onto the field we’re all as one and we just have to play together, win that down, win that series.”
Reader, the most valuable of the new defenders with a 4-year, $53 million contract, said there were no excuses for the poor run defense.
“Fully confident in all those guys doing their job and I’ve got to do my job. It’s not tough,” Reader said. “It’s just knowing how to do your job and doing it, getting it done. You as a reporter, you’ve got to come on there and ask tough questions. My job is to stop the run. Our job is to stop the run, so that’s what we’ve got to do. I know it’s what’s got to come up and what’s got to get done, no matter what. Whoever’s (in) there. We can put my son there, anybody. Whoever’s there has got to get stopped. There’s no excuse for it.”
“I’ll be damned if this happens every game. I’m not with this feeling. I know Vonn and a lot of guys aren’t with this feeling,” Bynes said. “I know this whole locker room is not with this feeling. Guys last night are tired of losing and tired of being in this kind of situation when we are that close and we can’t finish those games. Regardless of all the crazy stuff that happened in the game and all the bad things that happened these last two games, we still were able to come out with a victory at one point in time.
During Bell’s rookie year, his Saints started the season 0-3. They went 7-9 that season, but went 44-17 with Bell since the three opening losses in 2016.
“It’s the mindset. It’s a different mindset coming into this,” Bell said.