bryce40 Posted March 7, 2008 Report Share Posted March 7, 2008 The Bengals' defense is kind of like your firstcar. It's not pretty, it constantly needs newparts, and it isn't reliable enough to get youwhere you want to go. In other words, itneeds professional attention. .Which brings us to Mike Zimmer, who will playthe role of Mr. Goodwrench.The third defensive coordinator Marvin Lewishas hired since becoming Cincinnati's head coachin 2003, Zimmer inherits a unit that has been in theleague's bottom half each of the past five seasons,and only once in that span has it been above 27th,its NFL rank last season. In 2007, it registered aleague-low 22 sacks, gave up 40 touchdowns andallowed 52 explosive plays (gains of 20 yards ormore), including 14 that were scoring plays.Injuries contributed to Cincinnati's problems,72 . SEE A DIFFERENT GAME. 2/25/08especially at linebacker, where Eric Hendersonwent on injured reserve in the preseason andAhmad Brooks, Lemar Marshall, Rashad Jeantyand Caleb Miller missed significant time. But otherproblems reared their heads. Such as an anemicpass rush. Such as poor tackling in the open field.Such as loose coverage in the secondary.Since joining the Bengals in mid-January, Zimmerhas been studying the players and trying tofigure out what to do with them. He's not ready topublish his playbook, but he has conceptualizedvarious personnel groupings and schemes."It's not set in stone what we're going to do;' says .Zimmer, 51, who was the defensive coordinator ofthe Cowboys (2000-06) and the Falcons (2007)before coming to Cincinnati. "But they haven'tbeen real good on defense here for a number ofyears, so nothing is out of the question:'Even switching to a 3-4.AFC North rivals Pittsburgh, Baltimore .andCleveland already playa 3-4. Zimmer is consideringmaking it a foursome. Even ifhe decides to stay withthe 4-3 as the Bengals' base defense, look for him tosprinkle in a lot of3-4100ks and alignments.Zimmer likes the 3-4 because of the variations itoffers for pressuring the quarterback. You can lineup both outside linebackers on the same side, youdon't always have to bring in new pass rushers innickel situations, and you can confuse offenseswith different zone blitzes.This wouldn't be the first time Zimmer hasdelved into the 3-4. In Dallas, he helped orchestratea successful transition from the 4-3 to a 3-4in 2005 and 2006 under coach Bill Parcells.The Cowboys drafted pass-rushing linebackerDeMarcus Ware, added veteran nose tackle JasonFerguson and moved Greg Ellis from end to outsidelinebacker.Zimmer thinks the Bengals have three playersendRobert Geathers, Brooks and tackle DomataPeko-around whom a 3-4 defense could bebuilt. Altllough Geatllers had only 3'12sackslast season, he played strongside linebacker infour games because of injuries to teammatesand has the makeup to play outside linebacker.Zimmer says Geathers is "probably the best guyI've seen" on the Bengals' defense.Brooks, who missed 14 games and most ofanother last season, has the size (6-3,259) and athleticismto fit as an inside linebacker in a 3-4. Peko,who's easily identified by his flowing red locks,looks like he's big enough (6-3, 319) and strongenough to play nose tackle, though he must provehe can play there.When everyone is healthy; the Bengals have a lotof depth at linebacker, and the secondary featurestwo potential young stars in cornerbacks JohnathanJoseph and Leon Hall. The main area of concernis the line, which not only lacked a strong passrush last season but also struggled to stop the run.End Justin Smith is an unrestricted free agent whois not expected to return, and tackle John Thornton,who probably would move to end in a 3-4, is31. Thus, the team's top priorities in the offseasonare finding an end and a tackle."No matter what we do, we'vegot to get better upfront;' Zimmer says. "We've got to get more playersin and be a little bit more reckless. Everything reallystarts up front, and I think that will be a big pushfor us:'Whether the Bengals stick with their 4-3, switchto a 3-4 or toggle between the two, there's a lot ofwork to be done in the next six months. Roll upyour sleeves, Mr. Goodwrench. SN Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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