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Film Room: Defensive free agent additions

Check out the veteran defenders the Bengals added in free agency!

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

Vonn Bell.

Trey Hendrickson.

Chidobe Awuzie.

Eli Apple.

Larry Ogunjobi.

These are just a few of the free agents the Cincinnati Bengals signed under defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. The Bengals seem to have a knack for finding undervalued veterans on the free-agent market and getting the best out of them. They traded for B.J. Hill, another example of a veteran who really established himself once he got to The Queen City.

To paraphrase the Guns N’ Roses classic November Rain, “Nothing lasts forever, and we both known teams can change.”

Bell, Apple, and Ogunjobi are gone, as is Bengals’ draftee Jessie Bates. Of course, free agency is a door that swings both ways, and there are new Bengals in town looking to get the team its first Super Bowl.

Let’s take a look at safety Nick Scott, cornerback Sidney Jones, and defensive lineman Tarell Basham, to see what they bring to Cincinnati.

Nick Scott

Scott cut his teeth as a special teamer for the LA Rams, but in his third season, he took over as a starter just in time for the playoffs. The result was very unfortunate, at least for the Bengals’ faithful, but earned Scott a Super Bowl ring. The run also earned Scott the starting role for the following season.

Here he is against Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who sources tell me, were pretty good.

The Bengals made a big athletic upgrade in the secondary with the acquisition of Scott. He showcases that speed on this play as he makes a great read and runs underneath the corner route for an interception.

Make no mistake, though, Scott is not just a speed coverage guy. He can bring the wood.

In this clip, he is playing loose, and the 49ers try to zip a quick pass into George Kittle. Scott breaks and delivers a hit that separates Kittle from the ball.

Scott is not an apples-to-apples replacement for Bell, but his physicality is evident against both the pass and the run. In this clip, he runs the alley as the backside safety and annihilates Chiefs’ running back Isiah Pacheco.

Yeah, I think he’ll fit in just fine.

Sidney Jones

Based on his film, I saw Jones as the top cornerback in his draft class in 2017. It seemed that nothing could stop this guy from being a star in the NFL, but he had an Achilles heel, which was ironically an Achilles tear at Washington’s Pro Day.

That pushed him out of the first round and into Howie Roseman’s waiting arms in round two. He only played in one game during his rookie season, and a hamstring injury kept him out of about half of the games the following year. Needless to say, he never caught on with the Eagles, but when he’s healthy, he is a smooth, fluid athlete who can flat-out play.

Let’s take a look.

In this admittedly old clip, you get a good look at Jones playing press man. His eyes are locked on to the receiver, and he shows off his smooth hips as he turns to run with the vertical route.

He peaks back at the quarterback but maintains good position, in phase with the wideout, and is able to break up the pass.

Of course, the Bengals like physical cornerbacks who will come up and hit you, and Jones can do that too.

Here he lines up in the slot and beats the tight end’s block with speed before taking down former Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu for a loss.

Jones is the perfect Bengals free-agent value pickup. He’s incredibly talented, but injuries have held him back, and his career never took off. Awuzie’s knee may not be ready for Week 1, and the rookie DJ Turner may not be ready to start at that point either. Jones could play a very important role in this team’s early success, and he’s got what it takes to do it.

Tarell Basham

Of note, Tarell Basham’s college defensive coordinator was none other than Jimmy Burrow. The former Ohio Bobcat has made some splash plays in his career but never really established himself as a dominant player in the NFL. You know that his new defensive coordinator has to have a plan for when and how Basham will make an impact this season.

Let’s take a look at what Basham can do.

Basham provides an excellent burst off the edge as he demonstrates in this clip. This could be particularly valuable late in the game when fatigue becomes a factor for Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson.

He also gives you the ability to move those guys inside or let one of them blitz from a linebacker position. We’ve seen Hubbard do this in the past.

It’s not a mistake that Basham is unblocked on this play. Okay, obviously it was a mistake, but it’s not an assignment error by a player. The mistake was the play caller underestimating Basham’s talent.

You see, the idea is that Basham will bend and crash down the line to tackle the running back, taking himself out of the play. In fact, you can see Basham step inside to do just that, but he sees the jet sweep coming back, adjusts, and makes the tackle for a loss.

Basham is an impressive athlete, who can contribute against both the run and the pass. With the selection of Myles Murphy in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bengals have become extremely deep on the defensive edge. It will be interesting to see what the mad scientist Anarumo cooks up to get Basham involved.