The Bengals had many holes to fill coming into the offseason, and that list grew as Carl Lawson and William Jackson III found new homes. However, they were able to add some quality players in the first week of free agency.
Here is a look at the new additions in the jungle.
Trey Hendrickson, defensive end, formerly of the New Orleans Saints
Hendrickson was not someone I considered for the Bengals going into free agency. I knew he would be one of the top players at his position and I figured if they were willing to spend that kind of money on a defensive end, it would be Lawson.
Although Lawson is an excellent player, Hendrickson is not a step back for the Bengals. He is an explosive edge rusher who can win with power or speed.
Trey Hendrickson takes Eric Fisher’s lunch money pic.twitter.com/IDi9auw30Z— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) March 22, 2021
In the clip above, he lines up wide and has a running start as he strikes Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher. He brings his hips through and drives Fisher back, collapsing the pocket. As Patrick Mahomes steps to the side to avoid this pressure, Hendrickson disengages and gets a hit on the quarterback.
Trey Hendrickson at the bottom of the screen pic.twitter.com/RbjbIFRIk9— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) March 22, 2021
In this clip, Hendrickson beats Fisher with his speed. He gets off the ball and quickly gets to Fisher’s hip. Then he uses a club move to get past him for another hit on the quarterback.
Hendrickson has an incredible motor and showed the ability to consistently pressure the quarterback throughout the 2020 season. He could be a huge addition for the Bengals.
Larry Ogunjobi, defensive tackle, formerly of the Cleveland Browns
Ogunjobi is a strong run defender who can defeat blocks and make plays in the backfield, but what really stands out about him is his athleticism. He thrives when the defensive schemes puts him on the move, lining up in one gap and stunting into another.
In this clip, Ogunjobi comes off the combo block and runs straight down the line of scrimmage to make the stop on the outside zone. This was a great play against the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive scheme that gave the Bengals’ defense a lot of problems last season. Being able to make plays like this will be particularly valuable when the Bengals face Ogunjobi’s former team.
In this clip, Ogunjobi destroys the center as he penetrates deep into the backfield. As the play develops, Ogunjobi disengages from the blocker and makes the tackle in the backfield.
Pairing Ogunjobi with D.J. Readers should make the Bengals much stronger against the run in 2021. Ogunjobi brings some value as a pass-rusher, but mostly when the scheme puts him on the move.
Mike Hilton, slot cornerback, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers
This might be the signing that I am most excited about. Hilton is the complete package. He is excellent in coverage, run defense, and even as a blitzer.
We’ll start out with coverage.
Hilton excels in both man and zone coverages. He matches up well against small, quick slot receivers, big slot receivers, and even tight ends. In this clip he does an excellent job against New York Giants tight end Evan Engram.
The Bengals have struggled to cover athletic tight ends for years, and with Hilton they may finally have their answer.
Hilton is also an excellent run defender. He is a reliable tackler and can defeat blocks from receivers and tight ends.
In this clip, the motion takes him into the box where he is essentially a free hitter. He does a great job of filling and tackling the runner.
The duo of Hilton and safety Vonn Bell will give the Bengals excellent run support from their secondary.
Mike Hilton blitzing from space pic.twitter.com/sV2SbxK1mK— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) March 22, 2021
As an added bonus, he is also an excellent blitzer.
Watch him come from space in this clip. He lines up over the slot, and looks like he is playing man until just before the snap. Timing up the blitz this well makes it extremely difficult to pick him up.
Chidobe Awuzie, cornerback, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys
Awuzie matches up well against top competition at wide receiver. He is a smooth athlete who shows excellent burst when he breaks on the ball. Occasionally he finds himself out of position, but he is athletic enough to make up for it.
In this clip, against Atlanta Falcons reveiver Calvin Ridley, Awuzie gets a bit turned around, but he is able to sink underneath the route and get back in position.
Chidobe Awuzie should have help inside, but the LBs get caught up in the play action— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) March 22, 2021
He ends up making a great play pic.twitter.com/12tZsC5Dt0
Here, he should have help on the inside, but the linebackers bit on the play action. Trailing the receiver, Awuzie is still able to break on the ball and make a play.
He has some big shoes to fill, but Awuzie has the skill set to pull it off.
Riley Reiff, offensive tackle, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings
Reiff is an excellent player with a long track record of success in the NFL. He provides an upgrade to the Bengals’ offensive line as both a pass blocker and a run blocker.
In this clip, Reiff makes a great adjustment to pick up the defensive stunt.
He kick-steps to pick up the wide outside rusher. As pass-rusher comes inside, Reiff post-steps down and picks up the defensive tackle who is tying to get to the outside.
Picking up movement from the defensive line has been a big issue for the Bengals over the past two seasons, which Reiff should help to remedy.
This isn’t all about Reiff because the defender slips, but look what he does when dude tries to get back up pic.twitter.com/NM1rHlZRba— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) March 22, 2021
Reiff does a good job on this run block and the defender loses balance. What’s even more impressive is what happens when the defender tries to get up. Reiff will not allow it. He puts him back on the ground. Reiff not only brings experience, he brings a nasty demeanor, which is something this offense could really use.
The Bengals made some solid additions in the first week of free agency, but are still many areas that need to be addressed. For example, they’ve signed just one offensive lineman thus far and no new receivers. Expect them to make some additions to the offense in the second week of free agency.