The 2015 season was action packed for the Cincinnati Bengals. The campaign season started with promise and ended with a sudden crash. Along the way, the Bengals’ defense was a unit that surprised many fans and awed analysts. Cincinnati’s defense will definitely be Super Bowl ready for next year.
When Bengals fans talk about the Orange and Black, it’s usually in terms of offense. Since the days of SamWyche, Bruce Coslett, and Lindy Infante, the Bengals have always been considered a high-octane scoring machine.
What most fans don’t know about the Bengals is the rich defensive heritage. The “Zone Blitz” was born in Cincinnati, under the tutelage of Dick LeBeau. Guided by Howard Brinker and Hank Bullough (1975-1983), the Bengals’ defense was one of the best in the league. The combined efforts eventually led the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI.
According to ESPN, Cincinnati’s defense ended the 2015 regular season as the No. 2 ranked scoring unit. By giving up only 279 points, they were able to beat the 284 points allowed by the 1978 Bengals team. The goal is to be better than the 210 points allowed in 1975.
With many of the veterans returning and a crop of talented youngsters, the Bengals look like a defensive juggernaut. Next season could be a pleasant surprise from the Men in Stripes. The intensity shown by the defense should be even more explosive. Defense wins championships, as shown by the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. The Bengals have a top-tier defense that’s ready to do major damage.
With the return of secondary coach Kevin Coyle and addition of Jim Haslett, Bengals brass has made a statement. The Bengals are going to play smash mouth football in the rough AFC North.
“The guys up front were very impressive,” Coyle explained, via the Cincinnati Bengals site. “Geno (Atkins) is a rare, rare talent. It’s good to see him back playing at the level he can where he is really impressive. There’s depth.”
Coyle was a key part of the Bengals’ defensive scheme, from 2001-2011. After looking at the list of players adorning Cincinnati’s roster, he was pleased with what he saw.
“A core of defensive players are still with us and they’re all talented guys,” Coyle continued. “There’s a lot of athleticism at the linebacker spot. There’s youth on this team still. There’s a very good mix of established veteran players and an influx of young guys starting to come on. I think that’s a key for the future.”
The Bengals played a tenacious brand of football during the season, and played with abandon during the January 9 Wild Card Round. Defensively, the Bengals were able to stay in the game until the final minutes. They were two minutes away from advancing to the Divisional Round, when emotions took over and the defense was blamed for the heartbreaking loss.
The Bengals may have lost the Wild Card game, but defensive coordinator Paul Guenther is looking forward to making the unit even stronger. The next few months leading to OTAs and training camp will be vital to the new coaches and players. An understanding must take place. The system will remain the same, but there will be tweaks and additions to make a great scheme better.
“I think we can build off it and get it better. No question,” Guenther said. “I think we can even get it better. That’s what I told Marvin. My whole thing is I want to get it better than I had it a year ago, and bringing in new guys with experience will help that.”
Guenther and the coaches are getting ready to turn things around. The Bengals defense will be ready for the challenge. Defense is still winning championships. That mantra may take the Bengals to Super Bowl 51.
[Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]