The Bengals secondary has a great chance of surprising the NFL and their Quarterbacks this season and become one of the NFL’s best units.
The Bengals were possibly just a Linebacker, a few dropped picks, and some unlucky injuries away from being considered elite in 2018. But now they have the chance to avenge a missed opportunity in 2019.
If it weren’t for head-banging dropped interceptions by Dre Kirkpatrick, the inability of the linebackers to cover, well, just about anyone (seriously, we had to drop Geno Atkins into coverage at one point), and some unfortunate injuries, the secondary could have shined not just in Cincinnati but to the rest of the league.
But first, they’ll need a cool nickname, like all the other prolific units that have come and gone during their reign of NFL popularity and success. Nothing comes to mind immediately unfortunately, maybe they’ll pick it up with a certain style of play or celebration, but for now, a no name secondary will have to do.
The Bengals came in 3rd in the entire NFL when it came to dropped interceptions in 2018. That’s gotta make you just a little bit frustrated if you’re a Bengals fan, but by now we’re used to it. The only bright spot is that the Steelers are #1 on this list.
If it weren’t for so many drops, there would have been more highlights, better stats, possibly more touchdowns, and more celebration. All of which adds up to popularity and attention from NFL fans.
Despite ranking dead last in the NFL in terms of Passing yards given up (4,414) it was not all on the secondary. In fact, most of that yardage can be attributed to the Linebackers and their lack of coverage ability.
The Bengals starting cornerback duo really got going late in the season once they were finally adjusted to now fired Teryl Austin’s defensive system. In fact, they played so well that in week 11-17 Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III finished 1st and 2nd in yards per coverage snap.
Meanwhile while the secondary has been doing their part, the Linebackers seriously lacked and let the rest of the defense down.
So what does the Linebackers struggles in coverage really mean? Well it leaves the whole middle of the field vulnerable, makes the secondary look bad at the end of the year with all the yards given up, and leaves less time for the defensive line to get to the QB and throw him of his game. Once the linebacker position is fixed, the whole defense will thrive with all the talent on board.
Will the Bengals secondary be more well known in 2019?
With sophomore safety Jessie Bates III coming off an impressive 3 interception rookie year, he looks to command and control the secondary. He has the instincts, speed, range, ball hawk abilities, and hit power to transform into someone such as Earl Thomas in the future. What really makes the safety position outlook favorable is strong safety, Shawn Williams. Despite his spotty coverage, he came away with 5 interceptions last year, 1 touchdown, and 1 game winning forced fumble. This makes a dangerous safety duo. The secondary itself should be more than ready to go and prove themselves again in 2019. Especially now that the best players are comfortable in the new defensive system.
“There’s not a big difference in the playbook. There’s a lot of carryover,” Williams said before Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “It just makes sure there’s no gray. I want to say it’s simplifying, but it’s really not because some aspects are the same … the biggest difference is terminology. There’s no gray and then go play fast. Everything is simple. No hesitation. It’s not ‘What I thought,’ it’s what it is. Go play.”
Lockdown corner William Jackson III had this to say about new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and his new system. With the players feeling comfortable, they should be able to bring what they did late last season to the field in week 1 and well beyond.
But, just like last year they will need better play from the linebackers in order to see different results on the stat sheet. Thankfully, the Bengals addressed the linebacker situation somewhat in the offseason. Primarily through the draft, with N.C. State LB, Germain Pratt.
Pratt has good zone coverage abilities which will benefit the Bengals linebackers immediately. This is a huge boost in coverage and athleticism. And perhaps, it wont just be Pratt contributing to the turn around either.
Despite this nice coverage grade for LB Preston Brown, it is a little misleading. He was uncharacteristically playing injured for most of the season which affected his play. If he can stay healthy and prove his coverage grade, it’ll boost the defense tremendously.
And the same goes for Nick Vigil
Clearly, the Bengals are capable of having one of the better Secondaries in the NFL, it just all needs to come together. Stay faithful, Cincinnati.