Cincinnati’s defense was one of the worst in the league at stopping the run, but the unit still had some great individual performances in other aspects. The Bengals’ defensive front was one of the better units at getting to the quarterback in the NFL and also had quite a few big turnovers on the year.
Which one of the Bengals’ defensive stars was the most important to the team in 2017? Cast your vote and sound off on your winner for the Bengals’ 2017 Defensive Most Valuable Player!
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins: The big guy just continues to produce and keep a low profile. Though the team struggled against the run, it wasn’t No. 97’s fault.
Once again, Atkins was amazing against the pass, racking up a team-high nine sacks. He added 46 total tackles on the year and remains one of the league’s best interior linemen.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict: I guess you could point to Burfict’s nomination on this list more to what the defense looks like when he isn’t in the lineup over his actual 2017 stats. The unit’s overall fiery attitude and big plays just don’t seem to be as prevalent when No. 55 isn’t suited up for games.
Burfict played in just 10 games this year, but he still had two sacks, two passes defended, a forced fumble and 69 total tackles. When healthy and not on the NFL’s suspension watch, Burfict is one of the most electric linebackers in the NFL.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap: The Pro Bowl end got off to a slow start in 2017, but really hit his stride late in the year. Dunlap had 46 total tackles, 7.5 sacks and and seven passes defended.
Both of the latter stats were good for third-best on the team, as he remained a multi-talented force on the line. And, as the Bengals were trying to sneak into the playoffs in the last half of the season, Dunlap had 6.5 of those sacks and a pick-six in those final eight contests.
Cornerback Darqueze Dennard: It may seem like a stretch that he makes this list, but Dennard was solid across the board in many statistical categories. He was the team leader in interceptions with two, taking one all the way for a touchdown.
He was also fourth on the team in passes defended with six, had two sacks and 85 combined tackles. Given his growth in year four and his entering into a contract year, 2018 should also be a solid year for him.
Edge rusher Carl Lawson: The team’s Rookie of the Year was also one of the best players on the defense in 2017. That’s saying something, given the surrounding talent and the fact that he was a rotational player in year one.
Lawson was second on the team with 8.5 sacks and 16 total tackles. He was one of Pro Football Focus’ most efficient edge rushers in 2017, as he paved his way to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team.
William Jackson: We hesitated putting Jackson on the list because he only started five games this year and was down the depth chart pecking order a bit, but his impact can’t be denied. If you’re a PFF fan, he was a top cornerback, in terms of efficiency, throughout 2017.
He had a gigantic pick-six against the Packers and led the team with 14 passes defended and even added a quarterback sack. If he keeps up this pace, while also continuing to shut down Antonio Brown, he could quickly become one the league’s better corners.
Who gets your vote for the Bengals’ 2017 Defensive MVP?
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DT Geno Atkins
LB Vontaze Burfict
DE Carlos Dunlap
CB Darqueze Dennard
DE/LB Carl Lawson
CB William Jackson