Injuries, players still recovering from past ailments and a new defensive coordinator added up to the Cincinnati Bengals proud defense taking a step back in 2014. They were not good at rushing the passer, but the secondary played well despite that issue.
A lot of names could be thrown out for the 2014 Bengals Defensive MVP Award, and there is likely be a bunch of differing opinions on this one. Should one of the better defensive players on the line get the nod, even though that unit played poorly? What about a linebacker, even though injuries riddled that corps. Someone in the secondary? Cast your vote and sound off after you take a look at the contributors' nominees:
Alberto Luque (muertasdetenas): George Iloka. Better than the rest, Nelson should also get consideration and Dunlap did his thing too, but DL was porous.
Mickey Mentzer (AKA whodeyfans): Rey Maualuga. The defense was terrible until Maualuga returned from his injury.
Scott Bantel: Rey Maualuga – I am shocking myself that I am writing this! I know Rey still had a lot of missed tackles and was a liability in coverage, but with Maualuga, the defense surrendered 32.0 less yards per game, 38.2 less rushing yards per game and 4.0 less points per game. In fact, since Maualuga returned Week 11 from a hamstring injury, the Bengals defense held six of their final seven regular season opponents under 85 yards rushing. Like him or not, Maualuga’s return stabilized a really bad defense and allowed this team to make a push for the playoffs.
Jason Marcum: Defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
Nick Seuberling: Linebacker Rey Maualuga.
Anthony Cosenza: There are so many guys that could get this nod, but none that I feel are truly "deserving". I like the idea of Iloka and Nelson, but I think I'll still go Dunlap. He was one of the only consistent players on defense, both in health and overall production (solid against the run, led the team in sacks with eight), while having to overcompensate for so many guys either getting nicked up and/or under-performing.