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Cincinnati Bengals

More names missing from a reeling defense

Russell Heltman



It’s been a rough first half of the season for a Cincinnati Bengals defense that many expected to wow from the get go. Sunday’s 45-10 drubbing by Kansas City was a culmination of poor tackling, scheme, and a little bit of the injury bug mixed in.

Cincinnati ranks 30th in yards allowed (3,006), 29th in passing yards allowed (300.7 per game), 26th in rushing yards allowed (128.7 per game), and 28th in points per game (29). To add insult to injury, literally, my colleague Jeffrey Carr noted how defenses have had a “hangover” in the game following a matchup with the Chiefs.

Everything seems to be pointing in the wrong direction for this group especially the injury report, which confirmed three starters will be missing for Sunday’s tilt against Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Let’s run through the names and see who will need to step up.


Oct 7, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) follows the play against the Miami Dolphins in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

LB – Vontaze Burfict 

A big loss on the surface but Vontaze Burfict did not play to the level anyone expected from him in his first three games back from suspension. Burfict recorded 17 total tackles (one for loss), and two passes defended in three games. Toss in a handful of missed tackles including a few of the 18 whiffs against Kansas City and Burfict has been a negative influence since his return.

The problem is we expected the defense to get better with Burfict not only because he has shown to be a rare talent but also because of the depth behind him. Vincent Rey has looked older and older every week during his age 31 season and its warranted a 34.1 grade from Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Hardy Nickerson has fared a little bit better but he wouldn’t be a second-stringer on most NFL Rosters. The Bengals sorely lack athleticism at this position and it would be great to see Malik Jefferson get a chance but when you can’t learn the basics you won’t play, especially on a Marvin Lewis coached ball club.


Oct 29, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Nick Vigil (59) against the Indianapolis Colts at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

LB – Nick Vigil

Vigil was having a career year before going down early against the Pittsburgh Steelers and he will miss his second consecutive game on Sunday.

You know the tackling has been bad when:

A.) Your team leader is a safety (Jessie Bates)

B.) Vigil can miss almost two whole games and stay in the top three

Vigil has carried a 69.2 PFF rating this season, good for 23rd among linebackers and he leads all linebackers with a 15 % run stop percentage.

The burgeoning star will be replaced by a trio comprising Jordan Evans and the two I mentioned above. Evans has played respectably in a backup role this season, no big mistakes have helped earn him an above average PFF grade. The catch: he hasn’t recorded a sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble, or interception this year.

Whether he’s ready or not in his second season the Bengals need Evans to start making some impact plays, forcing a turnover or two would be a great start.


Oct 14, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Darqueze Dennard (21) defends against Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

CB – Darqueze Dennard

The Bengals nickel cornerback is missing his second straight game following a separated shoulder on the play pictured above. Dennard has been a gamer all season long ranking fourth on the team in tackles (29 total) and is graded as one of the best third-corner options in the league (#69 Overall).

The backup scenario here is a little less daunting than at linebacker because of the surprising play from Darius Phillips and Tony Mcrae. Phillips has shown some potential in limited work after a shaky preseason. The other option is Mcrae, who did give up the game-winner to Antonio Brown, but has still shown a consistent presence in coverage and can hold his own on the inside.


This Tampa Bay offense will be a massive test for the Bengals but if they can take any advice out of this week, I’d latch onto a Paul Brown nugget Dave Lapham shared on Thursday’s Locked On Bengals Podcast:

“He (Brown) told us obviously you guys are not capable of handling what we installed, your football acumen is not their men, it’s not happening so we are going to simplify, we are only going to run six runs, and seven passes until you guys feel confident we can execute these plays.”

Keep. It. Simple.

The Buccaneers interim defensive coordinator Mark Dufner did exactly that against the Browns last weekend and they came out with a win. Teryl Austin should look up at the name on his home stadium and heed the wisdom.

It’s simple.

A Cincinnati sports fan since before he could walk, Russ grew up in Anderson Township and currently attends Ohio University where he is pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Aside from cheering on all of the lovable losers in Cincinnati, Russ is an avid golfer and diehard Charlotte Hornets fan. When he's not breaking down the Bengals on 97 WATH you can find his analysis and thoughts on everything Orange and Black right here.

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Cincinnati Bengals

Three-Wide Set, All My Bengals

Jeffery Carr



© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

There was a soap opera that was on television, when I was a kid, that I would see when I stayed home sick from school. Figured the title fits what has happened with the Bengals the last few days, so I tweaked it for this week’s three-wide set, what’d you think?

  1. Teryl Austin out, Marvin Lewis in…again.So the most obvious move, ever, happened Monday with the separation of the Bengals and their defunct defensive director. Austin seemed like a good guy, and all, but his defense was horrendous. In case you’ve lived under a rock and are just now delving into the Bengals 2018 season, they are last in all the NFL in yards allowed. Somehow, they are not last, but second to last in points allowed. In fact, as Jay Morrison remarked on Twitter, the Bengals are 11th in points scored this season, but 28th in point differential. That’s how bad this defense has been. One more oh wow moment with bad defense is I am pretty sure, without looking, that the last two Bengals opponents haven’t punted. (Checks stats) Ok, they forced two punts in the Buccaneers game. That being said, opposing offenses had converted over 50% of their third down attempts against the Cincinnati defense. That’s not great. Oh, and one more, one more, oh wow moment: the Bengals became the first team in NFL history to allow 500+ yards in three-straight games…okay, I am done.
    Enter Marvin to “fix” the defense. Not sure it can be done, at this point, but to be real, it can’t get worse. Like, when you’re last, you can’t be more last. Just like if you’re dead, you can’t die again. Yet, somehow, with the worst defense in the league, the Bengals are not dead.  Lewis can schematically fix the defense (which doesn’t help the tackling) and may be able to up the ante on the pass rush, as this defense has been the most passive I’ve seen since Marvin came aboard, but will it be enough? If they pull out a win this Sunday in Baltimore, it will put them in a nice spot for the 2nd wild card spot, if they don’t get it together and lose to Baltimore then the three-wide set might start looking at three draft prospects for the Bengals, each week.
  1. Hue Jackson is back, again again. Welcome back home Mike Brown’s favorite son not named Marvin. The prodigal son returns as he, once again, tried to take his inheritance and go off to another team to make a name for himself, only to find himself, yet again, an assistant on the Bengals coaching staff. This time it’s very Dwight Schrute-esque as he is the “Special Assistant to the Head Coach.” Read that, “assistant to the head coach,” not “assistant head coach.” Here’s hoping Bill Lazor puts his stapler in jello.
    I really do not know how to feel. The “in the moment” side of me likes it for the simple fact he can provide inside info on the Browns, who the Bengals haven’t played, and he might be able to help out a now double-duty Marvin. But the “big picture” side of me hates this. Now it gives a reason for Mike Brown to let go of Marvin Lewis, after his contract expires, and seamlessly transition to another coach he likes. Brown now doesn’t have to go through the necessary, desperately needed painful process of interviewing new coaches who could possibly provide fresh-thinking to a team that desperately needs it. Instead he can hand over the keys to the coach’s office, without any hullabaloo, to a man who does not deserve it (objectively) but, rather, is someone who Mike Brown sees as a son. Ugh…
  1. John Ross scored! That’s right, much congratulations to the man who has endured a lot of criticism, a lot of vitriol, a lot of unnecessary hate…I am talking, of course, about our fearless podcast host, James Rapien. I thought Ross looked good, I thought Andy was bad. JR15 was getting separation, making some guys miss on their coverage…and the ball fell short. Dalton underthrew him. What was the joke when Ross was drafted? “Great, now we can have the fastest dude in the NFL for Andy to still overthrow.” Well, he wasn’t overthrown, he was underthrown. Seriously, there was a tweet, can’t remember who (probably Joe Goodberry), that showed all of John Ross’ targets. The ones he didn’t catch, were bad throws. Plain and simple. Those who criticize Ross are not looking at the whole picture. I think he gets better and I think Andy can build a rapport with him, maybe even this week at Baltimore. Point is, fans and haters, John Ross is going to be just fine.

This is the biggest game of the year, this Sunday, at M&T Bank stadium. Last year, the Bengals knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs there. Will the Ravens get revenge? Or will the Bengals continue their recent dominance over the Ravens (eight wins in the last 10 games)? Stay tuned!

Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonBengals for more Cincinnati professional football content

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Cincinnati Bengals

Reacting to Austin’s firing and our film review with Joe Goodberry

James Rapien



I discuss the Bengals firing defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Marvin Lewis taking over for him, plus Joe Goodberry joins me for our weekly film review. We talk about the Bengals’ 51-14 loss to the Saints, what can be fixed on defense, their issues on offense and more. Listen and subscribe to the podcast below.

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Cincinnati Bengals

The Saints march all over the Bengals 51-14

James Rapien



The Saints dismantled the Bengals 51-14 on Sunday afternoon. Cincinnati falls to 5-4 and continues to struggle following a 4-1 start to the season. I recapped them game, discussed the defensive struggles, plus hear from Drew Brees, John Ross and I respond to your voicemails on a postgame edition of the Locked on Bengals podcast. Listen and subscribe below.

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