CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals‘ defense improved steadily after a poor start last season, and they now believe the talent and experience exists to be among the top scoring defenses in the NFL.
“It’s not like we changed anything or that it’s broken,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said upon reporting to training camp this week. “We just need to get back to what we did as a defense. Get back to sacking these quarterbacks and get the ball back into our offense’s hands and all these nice, beautiful, fast weapons we just drafted.”
For Cincinnati to rebound from a dismal 6-9-1 season and get back to the playoffs, it will need to improve at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball.
The Bengals have a pair of Pro Bowlers on the defensive line – Dunlap and Geno Atkins – and another at linebacker in Vontaze Burfict. Defensive tackle Andrew Billings and cornerback William Jackson III are expected back after missing their rookie seasons with injuries.
“I learned a lot watching on the sidelines,” Jackson said. “When you’re playing you don’t actually learn that much. Where the receivers line up and how they try to set you up for the big play. I’m not raw anymore.”
There’s also plenty of depth and experience to offset the offseason departures of linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive tackle Domata Peko.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther told reporters this week that the versatility of this group will allow him to expand the playbook and institute some new looks beginning in training camp. It helps, too, to have plenty of veterans to help the young guys grow into their roles.
“It’s always the little things, making…
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