After making the playoffs for five consecutive years, the Cincinnati Bengals are playing with the big boys. They came within a field goal of moving on to the AFC Divisional Round. Analysts had the men in orange and black defeating Denver and moving on to play the Patriots. In fact, the Bengals were the favorites of more than a few experts. With a new year, there are new expectations. This season, it’s all about the end result. There should be a chip on every shoulder.
The Bengals defense was lights out during the 2015 season. The unit ended the year ranked as the No. 2 scoring unit in the NFL, per ESPN. The defense allowed only two games of 30 or more points. Bengals fans witnessed the unit allow 34 points against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. In Week 14, the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to post 33 points. The final score was boosted with help from two interceptions tossed by AJ McCarron.
In the Wild Card playoff game, the defense was blamed for the insanity that took place. The final score speaks volumes. Although the Bengals lost the game, the defense played well enough to come away with the victory. Paul Guenther’s unit held the Steelers to one touchdown.
That game left a bitter taste with the defense.
Even newcomer Karlos Dansby is ready to help the Bengals get over the playoff hump and on to the Big Dance. He has already stated that he wants to “get a ring” in Cincinnati.
“I feel like I can come in and I can help get us over that hump,” he excitedly explained to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“I want to be a part of something that’s great.”
That greatness will start with the defense. The Bengals made no effort to hide their game plan during the draft. Bengals brass went for speed, toughness, and grit. Snagging William Jackson III was the first indication defense was a priority. More proof of a defensive onslaught was apparent when they calmly selected Andrew Billings. In a mock draft, the Baylor strongman was pegged for duty in Cincinnati, but he slipped to the fourth round. It was two days before his phone rang.
After being snubbed by the other teams, Billings has developed the perfect Bengals mentality. Playing for the orange and black helps develop a callous skin. Even though the Bengals have done very well recently, there are still those who see the team as loveable losers. Having a chip on his shoulder will help Billings fit in.
“This is something I’m going to carry with me my whole life. It’s actually a good thing for me.”
That feeling will mesh with the other members of the defense and create something special. He’ll have a special bond with Bengals Pro Bowler Geno Atkins. He was also overlooked and slipped to the fourth round. That anger will be a source of motivation. According to Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney, that’s the sort of player he likes.
“He’s a guy that’ll think, ‘They should have taken me whenever,’ and that’s fine,” Burney explained. “That’ll be just motivation for him from that standpoint. Hopefully it stays with him for his entire career, not just one year. He’s that kind of person. He’ll take where he was drafted as a challenge, not as something to be depressed about, but as a challenge to prove that people missed him.”
The Bengals defense will have a lot to prove. Vontaze Burfict said it best as players reported for the start of a new campaign.
“Once the Super Bowl is over, everybody is 0-0. It’s a new year.”
The new season just might include a ring if the Bengals defense keeps the chip on their shoulder.
[Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]