Cincinnati Bengals Position Breakdown: Linebacker

The fourth installment of Bengals Breakdown will focus on the linebacker position for the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals.

The linebacking corps is one of the most interesting aspects of the 2013 Cincinnati Bengals. While the defensive line is the strength of the defense, there are still some question marks at the second level.

The addition of James Harrison caught a lot of people by surprise during the offseason. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year brings a lot of experience and veteran leadership to a relatively young defense. He certainly wasn’t the same player during his final season in Pittsburgh, but he won’t be asked to do as much for the Bengals.

The Bengals need more from Rey Maualuga

The Bengals need more from Rey Maualuga

Harrison will be the opening day starter at one of the outside linebacker positions and should have ample opportunities to rush the quarterback. It will be interesting to see how much Harrison has left in the tank. He is 35 years old and coming off an injury prone 2012 season.

With that being said, Mike Zimmer loves to utilize multiple packages and should find plenty of ways to play to the strengths of James Harrison.

Furthermore, Harrison is still considered one of the hardest hitters in the league and undoubtedly brings an intimidation factor with him to Cincinnati.

As of now, Rey Maualuga will be the opening day starter at middle linebacker. Maualuga became a frequent scapegoat for Bengals fans everywhere this past season, and rightfully so. He was downright awful in the loss to Houston during the wild card round last year. In addition to multiple missed tackles, he allowed multiple catches to running backs and tight end across the middle of the field.

Despite these deficiencies, the Bengals believed in him enough to sign him to a two year deal during the offseason. Maualuga remains a key contributor on defense and he will need to improve for the linebacking corps to be taken seriously in 2013.

Expect big things from Vontaze Burfict in 2013

Expect big things from Vontaze Burfict in 2013

After an extremely productive rookie season in 2012, Vontaze Burfict will be the third starting linebacker when the Bengals open the season on September 8th in Chicago. Burfict led the team in tackles with 174 last season and was an instant fan favorite in Cincinnati.

Burfict plays hard and fast. He is the most explosive member of the linbacking corps and should improve coming off his first year in the NFL. There has been speculation he could surpass Maualuga at the middle linebacker position, but he still seems a bit raw to be in command of the defense.

There is no doubt the linebacking corps is talented. They have a nice blend of youth and experience to go with a dominant front line.

The biggest question mark will be the progression of Rey Maualuga and if James Harrison can provide a sense of leadership to Maualuga and Burfict.

Expect another big year from Vontaze Burfict and look for a rejuvenated and angry James Harrison to be a dominant tag team in the AFC North.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Breakdown: Defensive Line

In the second installment of Bengals Breakdown we’ll take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals defensive line. A group which many believe is the best defensive line in the NFL.

Marvin Lewis arrived in Cincinnati in January of 2003 with hopes of creating the type of defense he had helped build in Baltimore. Instead, the Bengals relied on offensive minded teams led by Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson. They consistently finished in the bottom half of the league in defensive statistics and often found themselves in shootouts with opposing teams.

Many fans and analysts questioned why the Bengals were so offensive reliant when their head coach was known as a defensive genius. Nobody knows for sure, but it seems fairly obvious there was a turning point between Marvin Lewis and Bengals owner Mike Brown. The last five drafts have proven Marvin Lewis is finally getting the players he so long desired.

Nowhere is this more evident than on the defensive line. The AFC North has the reputation of being a smash-mouth division that is “won in the trenches.” Furthermore, the new rules which protect the quarterback have put a premium on pressuring the QB and disrupting his rhythm.

Beginning in 2008, the Cincinnati Bengals have added big and athletic defensive lineman in every draft.

Pat Sims, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Dontay Moch, Brandon Thompson, Devon Still, and Margus Hunt have all been acquired via the draft over the past five years. Pairing these young players with the experienced Domato Peko and Robert Geathers has created arguably the best defensive line in football.

Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap anchor the Defensive Line

Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap anchor the Defensive Line

The interior line is led by Domato Peko and the sensational Geno Atkins. Atkins led the Bengals in sacks last season with 12.5 and is widely considered the best interior lineman in the NFL. Peko is the leader of the defense and is most effective against the run.

The defensive ends are led by veteran Robert Geathers who recently agreed to a 3 year contract. Michael Johnson accounted for 11.5 sacks in 2012 while Gilberry and Dunlap accounted for 6 each, respectively.

One thing which makes the defensive line so dangerous is their ability to sub players in and out of games. The magnitude of talent allows players to stay fresh and consistently pressure the quarterback.

The biggest question going forward is how can the Bengals possibly keep all of these players in stripes. They used the franchise tag to keep Michael Johnson around this season, but have yet to work out a deal with the 26-year old. On July 16, the Bengals announced they reached an agreement with Carlos Dunlap to keep him in Cincinnati through the 2018 season.

The next step will be extending Geno Atkins before he’s eligible to hit free agency in March. Many are speculating a deal could get done before the start of the 2013 season.

Geno Atkins is the best interior lineman in the NFL

Geno Atkins is the best interior lineman in the NFL

It’s clear the Bengals value what they have along the defensive line and would like to retain as many players as possible. The signing of Carlos Dunlap and rumored extension of Geno Atkins proves the Bengals believe they have the formula to win in the AFC North.

There is no doubt the defensive line is the strongest position group for the Cincinnati Bengals. They have the ability to change every game and allow defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to be more aggressive with blitz packages while leaving the cornerbacks in 1 on 1 coverage.

Expectations are unusually high in the Queen City heading into the 2013 season. The Bengals have the opportunity to be a very strong football team in the coming years. The continued production from the defensive line will be key in maintaing a consistent and winning mentality in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Breakdown: Quarterback

We are nearly eight weeks away from the Cincinnati Bengals opening their regular season on the road in Chicago. To put things in perspective, the NFL Draft was just over ten weeks ago. Point being, the first meaningful game of 2013 will be here before you know it.

Over the next eight weeks, I will breakdown a different position group each week. Each week will contain my personal analysis along with tidbits and quotes from various sources around the NFL.

The eight position groups will be: Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver/Tight End, Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebacker, Secondary, and Special Teams.

The first position for this new segment is Quarterback.

Andy Dalton arrived in Cincinnati during a tumultuous time for Bengals nation. Carson Palmer was demanding a trade and causing major distractions off the field. Marvin Lewis signed a new contract to keep him in Cincinnati despite minimal success during his previous eight seasons with the team. Wide receivers Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens were released by the Bengals. Finally, the Bengals fired Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski and replaced him with Jay Gruden.

The odds were heavily stacked against Dalton during his first year in Cincinnati. The 2011 lockout meant no training camp or time to learn a new system and get comfortable with his surrounding cast.

Nationally respected writers such as Peter King from Sports Illustrated and Pete Prisco from CBS Sports predicted the Bengals would finish 3-13 and be in contention for the #1 pick in April of 2012.

Instead, Andy Dalton started all 16 games while throwing for 3,400 yards, 20 touchdowns, and leading the Bengals to a 9-7 record and trip to the playoffs via the wild card. Dalton joined fellow Bengals A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, and Jermaine Gresham on the 2012 Pro Bowl roster.

The time is now for Andy Dalton

The time is now for Andy Dalton

Despite losing convincingly to the Houston Texans in the first round of the playoffs, the 2011 season was considered a huge success and Andy Dalton had solidified himself as a legit NFL quarterback.

2012 was another successful season as Andy Dalton improved in nearly every statistical category. He threw for 3,600 yards, 27 touchdowns and once again led the Bengals to the playoffs via the wild card.

However, for the second consecutive year the Bengals were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Houston Texans. This time around, writers and analysts were critical of Dalton’s performance towards the end of the season and the wild card round.

Despite statistical improvements, there is no doubt Andy Dalton seemed hesitant during the 2012 season. There were too many errant throws and not enough game changing plays. Furthermore, Marvin Lewis challenged Dalton to become a better leader midway through the season.

There is no doubt Andy Dalton is capable of winning in the NFL. He has proven he can be a reliable and consistent quarterback in this league. The question is whether or not he can lead them to the Superbowl. The Cincinnati Bengals have enough talent and experience to be legitimate Superbowl contenders over the next three to four years.

Andy Dalton needs to become a more consistent quarterback and make more plays in the red zone for this team to take the next step. The third year is typically the measuring stick for NFL quarterbacks. Dalton has the experience and knowledge to excel at this level.

For the second year in a row, ESPN guru Ron Jaworski ranked Dalton #19 on his list of starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

“I felt there was a hesitancy to his play in the last half of the 2012 season. There were too many times he didn’t pull the trigger and too many poor reads for a quarterback whose arm strength limitations demand precise execution. This will be a critical year for Dalton. He’s a rock-solid NFL starting quarterback, but there’s too much inconsistency in his overall play.”

The Cincinnati Bengals have surrounded Dalton with even more weapons by adding Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard in the 2013 NFL draft. Expect some new formations and wrinkles in the offense to get the ball out of Dalton’s hands quicker and more effectively.

The majority of Dalton apologists point to the lack of weapons surrounding him over the past two seasons.

Dalton has all world wide receiver A.J. Green, Pro Bowl tight end Jermaine Gresham, slippery slot receiver Andrew Hawkins, and now a blend of running backs in Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard. Not to mention the return of Mohamed Sanu and addition of big time playmaker Tyler Eifert.

I believe Andy Dalton is good enough to lead the Cincinnati Bengals deep into the playoffs and possibly contend for a Superbowl with the right offensive scheme. I think he has the playmakers and coordinators around him to create that scheme. The only thing left is execution and consistency.

There are no more excuses for Andy Dalton.

Bengals Return to Hard Knocks

The Cincinnati Bengals return to "Hard Knocks" in August

The Cincinnati Bengals return to “Hard Knocks” in August


For the second time in the last five years, the Cincinnati Bengals will be featured on the HBO series “Hard Knocks.” “Hard Knocks” is a reality sports documentary which provides an in depth look at the training camp of one NFL team each year.

The Bengals were featured on the show in 2009 when big personalities such as Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens stole the spotlight.

Additionally, Carson Palmer was still the quarterback in Cincinnati and things were beginning to head south for him and the rest of the team. Within two years, Carson, Chad, and Terrell Owens were either traded or released by the Bengals and a new wave of talent and youth was on the way in.

The 2013 version of “Hard Knocks” figures to be a much different story. The Bengals are led by quiet superstars on both sides of the ball in A.J. Green and Geno Atkins. The team is a nice blend of experience and youth, a trait which has helped them reach the playoffs three of the past four seasons.

With loads of talent on both sides of the ball, there is no doubt the Bengals are a good choice to be featured on the award winning show. The progression of Andy Dalton and the impact of rookies Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard will be must see TV for fans and pundits alike.

The question is, will “Hard Knocks” help or hurt the Cincinnati Bengals?

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 10.01

In my opinion, there is a reason organizations like the Patriots and Steelers are never featured on “Hard Knocks.” Strong organizations don’t want the distraction that comes with cameras and film crews following their every move. Obviously, Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis feel differently when it comes to this type of distraction.

Marvin Lewis has earned the right to make the decision to appear on “Hard Knocks,” and I will enjoy watching every second of the show. However, it has the potential to become a distraction for a very young and talented team. Andy Dalton has a lot to prove in 2013. The defense is full of young talent. The majority of the playmakers on offense are still in their mid-20’s. How will they respond to the publicity and critique that comes with this show?

For now, I am cautiously optimistic.

What do you think?

Bengals Update


While the Reds have been busy winning 10 of their last 12, the Cincinnati Bengals kicked off OTA’s this week. OTA’s are a good opportunity to look at some rookies and get a feel for where the team stands in the health department. It also means the NFL offseason is technically over and we can begin to think about football season again.

A few items of note:

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones suffered some sort of injury to his calf muscle on the first day of OTA’s and will be held out for the remainder of practice sessions. Jones seems poised for perhaps his best season in Cincinnati.

He has been of the most underrated Bengals over the past three seasons and has filled in nicely when called upon. Furthermore, he has added a dimension in the return game.

Andre Smith

Andre Smith is once again absent from OTA’s. Resigning Smith played a huge role in allowing the Bengals to draft Giovani Bernard and Margus Hunt in the second round, rather than using one of those picks to replace the right tackle.

Everybody seems pleased with having Smith back in the fold, but he certainly hasn’t been easy since being selected 6th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Hopefully he gets his act together and returns to OTA’s at a respectable weight.

Andy Dalton

This is a big season for Andy Dalton. The third year as a starter is traditionally a good measuring stick for NFL quarterbacks. With the addition of Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert, the Bengals have surrounded Dalton with plenty of fire power. Dalton and AJ Green have been vocal about wanting to improve on the long ball.

Perhaps this play is fueling the fire a bit.

James Harrison

OTA’s give coaches their first look at newly acquired linebacker, James Harrison. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year brings a nastiness and edge to a young defensive unit. It will be interesting to see how Mike Zimmer uses Harrison and how much he will be called upon to defend tight ends across the middle, something he struggled with in years past. Harrison could become the x-factor of a very good defensive unit and possibly help take this team to the next tier.

James Harrison

James Harrison

It’s way too early to determine what this team will look like come September 8 for the season opener in Chicago. However, this team has weapons at nearly every position and there is reason to be optimistic going forward. The Bengals are building something special and it might be time for everyone to start paying attention.

Initial Thoughts on Bengals Draft


The years of Chris Berman and company laughing and mocking the Bengals on draft day are apparently long gone.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Cincinnati Bengals have been praised for their patience and draft day selections. ESPN draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr., gave the Bengals an A-. Along with the Rams and Ravens, an A- was his highest grade given out in this particular draft.

The Bengals did the same thing they’ve done over the past four or five years on draft day. They stuck to their board to select the best overall player at the top of the draft, and then filled needs with some nice players in the middle to late rounds.

Marvin Lewis Deserves Some Credit

Marvin Lewis Deserves Some Credit

Say what you want about Marvin Lewis and his inability to determine the correct time to throw the challenge flag, but his ability to convince Mike Brown to give him more control of the draft and scouting has been the difference. Marvin has built a solid scouting team and realizes what it takes to not only win in the AFC North, but also in the NFL as a whole.

Unlike some other defensive minded coaches around the league (Rex Ryan), Marvin has adapted with the changing landscape of the NFL and realizes the league is an offensive dominated league. He has now built a solid defensive front that can pressure opposing quarterbacks and given Andy Dalton enough weapons to finally compete with the big boys in the AFC.


Moving on, how about some random thoughts on the 2013 NFL Draft?

– Tyler Eifert was awesome at Notre Dame, I think he will be awesome in stripes.
– Text I received about Margus Hunt, “I watched him play his bowl game against Fresno State. The dude is a freak”. I like freaks.
– I have heard of Giovani Bernard. He is everything the Bengals need in a running back.
– The Ravens and Steelers got a lot of good players.
– EJ Manuel?
– Wish Reid or Cyprien would have fallen to Bengals in second round.
– I need a new Bengals jersey.
– How do opposing teams guard AJ, Gresham, AND Eifert?
– Bengals love Georgia players (Shawn Williams)
– Bengals announce signing of Andre Smith minutes before their selection of Giovani Bernard. Can’t wait to see the big fella open up some lanes for the UNC product.
– What happens if Bengals don’t get a deal done with Smith? Menelik Watson?
– Bengals now have four capable tight ends on their roster. They don’t need four tight ends.
– Are AFC North and NFC West the two best divisions in football?
– I’m buying a Giovani Bernard jersey.
– No more excuses for Dalton. Bengals go as far as he takes them this year. He knows it.
– Think about AJ, Gresham, EIfert, Giovani, and Andrew Hawkins on the field together.
– Bernard Scott and Giovani Bernard. That will be confusing.
– I’ve talked myself into Giovani Bernard being the next Ray Rice.
– You should be very excited about being a Bengals fan.
– Who Dey

Need It

Need It