Cincinnati Bengals: Taking a Look at the Defensive Line


For the Cincinnati Bengals to be at their best on the defensive side of the ball, they need to do a better job at getting pressure on the quarterback.

In the 2014 NFL season, the Cincinnati Bengals weren’t bad on the defensive side of the ball. The amazing thing is that they did that even though they finished 32nd in the NFL in sacks. In 2012, when Michael Johnson was on the roster and playing at his best, the Bengals finished in the top five in sacks. So why exactly did they go from a top pass-rushing team to a team that was allergic to sacking the quarterback?

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Well you first have to start with Geno Atkins and the ACL injury he suffered in the 2013 season. That injury kept him out for about half of the year and without having one of the top 3-techniques in football, the Bengals did not get pressure from the interior part of their defensive line, as Domata Peko and Brandon Thompson failed to create pressure from the defensive tackle positions.

Without getting pressure in the interior, Cincinnati’s star pass-rusher  Michael Johnson, saw a big dip in his production. In 2012, Johnson had 11.5 sacks. In 2013, however, his production dipped to just four sacks. Nevertheless, the Bengals are going to be much better in 2015 at getting after the quarterback and the reasoning is real simple.

Even though Atkins played in 2014, the reality is that he didn’t look like his best self. However, it’s been reported that Atkins has looked extremely quick and explosive in OTAs. This is absolutely great news for the Bengals, their defense, and their fans. Here’s what defensive line coach Jay Hayes had to say about Atkins and his progression:

"“Scary,” Hayes said via “It’s scary how fast and explosive he is right now. I think he has the confidence that he has his legs under him. He feels like he did.” Observers attending the team’s OTA sessions had already noticed an improved Atkins, moving a lot better than last year. “You can see it,’ said Hayes on Tuesday. “He looks like himself. He looks as quick and as fast I’ve seen him.”"

It’s not just Atkins however. After blaming out with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in just one season, the Bengals decided to re-sign Michael Johnson, thinking he could find himself and his talents in Cincinnati. With Atkins back at full health, at least that’s the coaches say, to pair with a run-stopping defensive tackle in Peko, and the combination of Dunlap and Johnson on the edge, the Bengals seem to look like the defensive line of old in 2015.

Another thing is that the Bengals have some decent depth across their defensive line. Wallace Gilberry will be back in action and coming off a good season. His stats weren’t great in 2014, but he turned into a run-stopping defensive end, while Dunlap was really the beneficiary for sacks.

On top of Gilberry, the Bengals also have Margus Hunt, the team’s second-round pick from the 2013 NFL Draft, coming back from injury. Marcus Hardison was also brought in through the draft. He can play either defensive end or defensive tackle. 2014 third-round pick Will Clarke is also a guy who can be a pass-rushing specialist in 2015, however, he is still a bit of an unfinished product.

By bringing back talent, getting some players back from injury, and getting some pieces for depth over the offseason, I expect the Bengals to be much improved in this department in 2015. The key to having a solid defense is to get pressure on the quarterback. The Bengals, barring any injury, should be able to do this well in 2015.

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