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Creative solutions needed to solve Bengals’ pass-rushing woes

Hiring Marion Hobby was a great move for Cincinnati, but the defense still has a major question at a critical position.

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Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There was a fake report about the Cincinnati Bengals signing Carl Lawson to a four-year, $50 million deal on Twitter.

I usually take a second to look at the account before taking a tweet seriously, but I immediately got very excited. I texted fellow Cincy Jungle writer John Sheeran immediately. “It’s fake man” he replied. I was seriously disappointed.

I wasn’t just disappointed because Lawson is an outstanding player with an array of finely-tuned pass rush moves. Or because he’s a sweet guy who took the time to come on our show:

I was disappointed because Lawson is the Bengals’ only quality pass rusher. He’s one of the top players at his position, and after him, I don’t know if the Bengals have another quality pass-rusher right now. Though Lawson only had 5.5 sacks this past season, that was largely because of the lack of help around him. His 10.5 “sacks created” were seventh most in the league.

According to Pro Football Focus, Lawson’s 20% win rate on pass rushes was amongst the best in the league. The team, though, finished 30th in overall pressure rate with a mark of 22.8%.

Yes, Sam Hubbard has shown flashes, and Khalid Kareem has promise, but those two combined for just three sacks in 2020. If Lawson leaves, the Bengals will enter the upcoming NFL draft without anyone who can regularly win one-on-one matchups. They will have to manufacture pressure with blitzes and schemes.

That’s not good in today’s NFL. That means that no matter how much the rest of the defense improves, the Bengals will allow a lot of points against good passing offenses.

But let’s be positive and say Lawson returns. And maybe Hubbard and Kareem take the next step under the guidance of new defensive line coach Marion Hobby, who has an excellent track record of developing talent, most recently with the Miami Dolphins. Still, the Bengals will need to add reinforcements in the draft or free agency.

The problem is, Cincinnati’s front office has decided to fix the offensive line this year. It’s highly unlikely that Mike Brown—winner of D&H Sports’ Cheapest Person Alive award 12 years in a row—will take two separate dips into his money bin, one for the offensive line, one for pass rushers. As always, Brown—and daughter Katie Blackburn—will make one or two moves and then pretend that there simply isn’t enough money left to do much else.

And then there’s the draft. There aren’t any pass rushers worth taking with the fifth-overall pick. They’ll take either a wide receiver or tackle in the first round and then take the other position in the second round. It’s unlikely they’ll find a guy ready to contribute in the mid-rounds. Lawson may’ve been a fourth-round pick a few years back, but his unfortunate injury history in college made it possible for the Bengals to get such a steal.

John Sheeran and I discuss the challenges the defense will face in Hobby’s first year in the video below:

You can also listen on iTunes and using the player below: