Now that the offense has been decided, let’s look at the defense. Who is going to suit up for the 2019 edition of the Cincinnati Bengals? Statistically, the Bengals defense was one of the worst in the NFL. They were dead last in yards allowed. They were dead last in passing yards allowed. They were 29th in rushing yards allowed. Their defense needs improvement. This franchise once had a defense that imposed fear on opposing offenses. Now quarterbacks and offensive coordinators circle their game against Cincinnati and begin salivating.
2019 Post-Draft Bengals Roster Projection, Part 2
Defensive Ends: Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard, Jordan Willis, Carl Lawson, Kerry Wynn
Carlos Dunlap has consistently been one of the best defensive ends in his time in the NFL. He led the league in passes defended by a defensive end with eight and added eight sacks, 47 tackles, and 27 hits on the quarterback. Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson were bright spots when they played. Lawson’s campaign was cut short by injuries, unfortunately. Hubbard brings flexibility because he can also move inside. Jordan Willis has been solid, but not great for the Bengals and could possibly be on his way out. Finally, the Bengals signed Kerry Wynn from the New York Giants. Wynn provides just as much flexibility as Hubbard and will earn plenty of snaps within their rotation.
Defensive Tackles: Andrew Billings, Geno Atkins, Ryan Glasgow, Renell Wren
Andrew Billings has been progressing into a very solid nose tackle and run stopper for the Bengals. While he may not be an every-down tackle like Geno Atkins, Billings has proven to be a force up front on short yardage situations. Atkins is a shoo-in for the roster. There are not enough words to speak about Atkins’ ability to break through the offensive line and disrupt offenses. The Michigan product, Ryan Glasgow, has also been a solid player. Renell Wren, the rookie from Arizona State, will earn his way into the rotation. Wren was a force on an otherwise weak Sun Devils defense. He provides another big body that will add to Billings and will allow the Bengals defense to stuff running backs on the crucial third and short situations that have destroyed them.
Linebackers: Nick Vigil, Germaine Pratt, Preston Brown, Hardy Nickerson, Jr., Deshaun Davis, Jordan Evans, Malik Jefferson
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Bengals cut Vontaze Burfict. The linebackers were a weak point and will most likely continue to be. That is unless their rookies Germaine Pratt and Deshaun Davis show out. Don’t be surprised if Pratt is a day one starter alongside Nick Vigil and Preston Brown. Both Vigil and Brown were good last year, but Brown’s season was cut short by injury (much like so many others). Hardy Nickerson, Jr. will continue to provide depth, but I am interested to see if/how the Bengals use Malik Jefferson. Jefferson was a 2018 third round draft pick out of Texas and was praised for his athleticism. He can fly around the field and can provide a spark to an otherwise dull defense. Where Deshaun Davis lacks in side-to-side mobility and pass coverage he makes up in run stopping defense. He is a pure thumper and could very well take over the Burfict role. Let’s just hope it’s without the dirty play and unnecessary penalties.
Cornerbacks: Dre Kirkpatrick, B.W. Webb, William Jackson III, Tony McRae, Darqueze Dennard
As stated above, the Bengals pass defense was atrocious. Yes, everyone was injured, but giving up the most yards is indicative of a larger issue. William Jackson III is an elite cover corner that has begun to play up to his first-round expectations. Dre Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, has been on the receiving end of tons of fan ire. He has, essentially, taken over for Adam “PacMan” Jones. To complement them, the Bengals signed B.W. Webb to become a starting slot corner. By re-signing Tony McRae and Darqueze Dennard, the Bengals added depth. Both of these guys have had flashed of brilliance, but have been featured on far too many highlight tapes. Watch out for undrafted free agent Tyree Kinnel out of Michigan. Michigan has had an elite defense for the last few years (outside of that 62 point ‘mirage’ against Ohio State). Kinnel is a physical corner with good speed who can keep up with most. If there is going to be a competition going into camp, expect Kinnel to challenge.
Safeties: Shawn Williams, Jessie Bates III, Clayton Fejedelem, Brandon Wilson
I wish that I could have written Derron Smith here, but alas he was snatched up. In a move that shocked everyone last year, the Bengals moved away from veteran George Iloka and trusted Jessie Bates III. And boy were they right to. Bates was a great safety for the Bengals last year and should be even better this fall with a full year of experience under his belt. Shawn Williams and Clayton Fejedelem will also be on the roster due to their playmaking abilities and flashes of brilliance. Fejedelem is a great special teams player, which the Bengals have always loved. Finally, Brandon Wilson is a depth safety. He was drafted in 2017 in the 6th round out of Houston and has been fighting injuries ever since.
Special Teams: Kevin Huber, Randy Bullock, Clark Harris
The area where there should be little to no competition would be the special teams. Kevin Huber‘s left leg has gotten the Bengals out of jams and pin opponents deep. Each year, the former Cincinnati Bearcat proves his worth and should play until he physically cannot any longer. Randy Bullock has been the goat for fans. Bengals fans often look at kickers to direct their frustration. While the Bengals did not add a kicker in the draft, don’t be surprised if the Bengals bring in another leg to compete if Bullock gets off to a rough start. And yes, I’m still upset that they cut Jake Elliott, who has gone on to hit 60+ yard field goals and has won a Super Bowl. Clark Harris will be the long snapper. That’s that.
The Bengals have their team! While playing in 45-42 games every single week would be exciting for fantasy owners, it is not how you win Championships. The offense, as I said in Part 1, is explosive and can compete with anyone. The defense struggled to stop anyone last year. If the Bengals want to be successful and quell the Cleveland Browns hype, they need to play defense. If not, I will be mocking them taking Tua Tagovailoa or Jake Fromm in the top five of the 2020 NFL draft while listening to my friends who are Browns fans gloat about their AFC North division title.
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