As the Cincinnati Bengals prepare for Organized Team Activities, rest assured the defense is one area of the team will continue to improve on.
The defense was the key to the team's 10-6 record playoff run last season. The Bengals defense finished sixth in yards allowed and eighth in points allowed. Come this fall expect that trend to continue as the team improved their depth on defense.
At defensive end coming in to OTA’s are veterans Carlos Dunlap, holding down the right-side and Robert Geathers on the left. Jamaal Anderson and Michael Johnson, are both capable of stepping in and being productive backups.
Margus Hunt will bring most of the competition since he’s a young and well-spirited rookie for the Bengals. This may force the release of either Anderson or Johnson to clear out a spot on the defensive depth chart.
The next part of the defense is the tackle position, starting with Geno Atkins, arguably one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL (12.5 sacks in 2012) as he returns to the trenches. His partner Domata Peko is a solid run stuffer on the inside.
The linebacker position is where the Bengals added former Steelers linebacker James Harrison this off-season. Expect him to start at the (weak-side) linebacker spot.
Rey Maualuga will move to the (strong-side) linebacker spot. This is Maualuga's moment to live up to his first-round pick potential. At the middle linebacker position Vontaze Burfict, who was one of the big success stories out of the NFL last season, will take over. Look for him to continue improve and lead the Bengals linebacker unit.
Aaron Maybin, another former first rounder, will try to revitalize his career as a back-up this season. Maybin has the talent to be a starter in the NFL, but has never shown the work ethic or capacity to adapt to the speed of the NFL.
The teams fourth round selection in this year’s draft, linebacker Sean Porter, looks to backup outside and build some confidence before pushing for a starting spot.
What seems a bit shaky on the defensive side of the ball going into OTA’s is the secondary. Reggie Nelson returns at the free safety position. Nelson led an injury plagued 2012 backfield with three interceptions. Leon Hall returns as the Bengals number one corner. When healthy, he’s a Pro-Bowl quality player.
Last years first-round NFL draft pick, Dre Kirkpatrick, returns from a season ending injury to compete with Terence Newman for the other cornerback position. Odds are Kirkpatrick locks down the starting job by week two of training camp.
Adam "Pac-Man" Jones returns to backup both cornerback positions and play nickel in specific situations.
The Bengals added Shawn Williams in the draft to up-grade the strong safety slot. Williams has talent the around him to allow him to take his time to develop and fight through the rookie growing pains. And finally, Taylor Mays will continue to back up both safety positions and be a strong contributor on special teams.
The Bengals defense finished in the top-10 last season. Look for the them to only improve coming into camp for the 2013 campaign.