Do the Cincinnati Bengals have the best defensive line in the NFL?
Well, that might be laying it on a bit thick, but there’s no question they have one of the best. And the deepest.
For anyone that follows Ohio State, the 2011 Bengals are mimicking what the Buckeyes have done for years on their defensive front: They are rotating players in-and-out of the game in order to keep them fresh. It doesn’t make any sense to do that if you have four guys who are clearly better than the backups. But if you have 6-8 relatively equal players, it’s a wise move to use a D-line rotation.
The Bengals’ best player up front is second-year defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who picked up his first sack of the season in Sunday’s win over the Seattle Seahawks. However, he has plenty of help with third-year DE Michael Johnson (2.5 sacks), second-year DT Geno Atkins (3.5 sacks) and the “seasoned veteran” of the starting corps in his sixth professional year, DT Domata Peko (31 tackles). Then the productive reserve players include seventh-year DE Jonathan Fanene (3 sacks), sixth-year DE Frostee Rucker (3 sacks) and fourth-year DT Pat Sims (1 sack).
The only member of the defensive line that is not producing is eighth-year pro Robert Geathers, who is a sure-fire bet to get cut after this season. Geathers is making $3.95 million this year and is scheduled to make $4.2 million in 2012. There is no way the Bengals are going to pay anywhere near that much for what appears to be a washed-up player. In fact, he’s lucky he didn’t get released this year.
However, thanks to the play of the other seven players up front, the Bengals aren’t missing Geathers one bit. Cincinnati absolutely ate up Seattle’s offensive line last Sunday and it’s going to be fun to watch the relatively-young D-line continue to improve.
For more on the excellent defensive line, Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com penned a good story about the group today.