The Cincinnati Bengals defense is very hard to define.
You would be wrong to call it a 4-3 or 3-4 defense even though we see them line up in those sets at times. You also could see five defensive linemen and two linebackers, and the team will drop a defensive end into coverage. To run a defense with all of these multiple looks it takes some pretty specific talents to fit certain molds.
The Bengals may have found a player who could fit into their defense quite nicely that should be available late in the draft.
Owen Carney Jr. worked out for the #Bengals, per source. He was a participant at #Dolphins’ local day and part of a small group to also dine w/the team.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) April 12, 2022
Recorded 21 bench reps at @IlliniFootball Pro Day. Carney was All-Big Ten at EDGE in 2020 and All-Big Ten OLB in 2021.
Owen Carney Jr. was a fairly productive edge defender who played defensive end almost exclusively, but his prospects at the NFL are a bit more blurry. Here is what Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network had to say about Carney:
Positives: Relentless college defensive end with average size and speed. Resilient, stays with plays, and easily changes direction. Breaks down well, works hard as a pass rusher and run defender, and shows good mobility. Occasionally stands over tackle and easily gets down the line of scrimmage in pursuit.
Negatives: Lacks strength as well as bulk and gets driven off the line by a single blocker. Lacks an explosive closing burst.
Analysis: Carney was a solid defensive end for Illinois, but he lacks the size to stay at the position and does not have the speed to be moved to linebacker.
It seems like Carney projects as a tweener that may have trouble fitting into either role exclusively. He measures out at 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds. The relentless trait is one that seems to be used frequently when describing Bengals defensive ends like Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson. Carney’s height is a bit lacking, but otherwise he fits that mold of defensive end for this defense.
The fact he has some ability to change direction as well also implies he would be as serviceable in coverage as the other defensive ends. The idea isn’t that they can shut down tight ends or running backs. Rather that they can surprise quarterbacks with a defender being in an area they expected to be open entirely.
Carney obviously has some developing to do before he sniffs any real rotational snaps, and his ceiling probably projects as a backup. However, you could do worse on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.