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The big reasoning for the drop-off last year was failings by their offensive
linemen. Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler were elite at their spots, but
nobody else could play with much consistency. Offensive line is also the unit
where having a cohesive group is more important than having a few high-level
individual performers, so the actual impact of Whitworth and Zeitler was
mitigated substantially by their underwhelming teammates.
Still, having those guys was meaningful and they are no longer on the roster
at all. In their places are a bundle of question marks in the best-case
scenario, and the other spots aren’t exactly bright spots.
Russell Bodine was decent at center in 2016, but his play was an outlier from
his previously poor form before that. Clint Boling has been an average performer
at left guard for four seasons now. Right guard is a huge hole without Zeitler.
Their tackle rotation is left to be decided by Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher,
Andre Smith, and Eric Winston — none of whom a team should feel comfortable
turning to at this point of careers, much less needing two of them to act as
The blockers were once the biggest strength for this Cincinnati
West Jersey , but now it easily stands as their biggest weakness
for the foreseeable future.
While the offensive line was the key on-field strength of Cincinnati’s
previous offensive success, the same could be said for their defensive line on
the other side.
When this team has been at their best, their defensive line was forcing
pressure at a high rate. This past year, they fell under 7.0 percent in Adjusted
Sack Rate for only the second time since 2011. The other time (2014) was
mitigated by issues including Geno Atkins working his way back after a torn ACL
in 2013 and the free agency departure of Michael Johnson. This time, even with
those players on the field, it didn’t make nearly as much of a positive impact
Atkins played well, but Johnson is a shell of his former self as a pass
rusher. And beyond Carlos Dunlap Mike
Wallace Jersey , the team had nobody else to turn to for
production. Domata Peko hadn’t been a good player since nearly 2012, but still
picked up nearly 600 snaps. Pat Sims cratered to by far his worst season since
2011 in over 400 snaps. Wallace Gilberry, Margus Hunt, and Will Clarke all were
underwhelming in their roles as backup edge rushers.
A unit which used to be powered not only by top-quality talent at the top but
also strong depth fell off heavily, and those issues look to continue to decline
Barring injury, Atkins and Dunlap should continue to play at a high level,
but no other spot has a credible answer going forward. Peko being gone is a
positive in a vacuum, but there doesn’t appear to be much to get excited about
in his stead. The only realistic options on the roster appear to be either the
aforementioned Sims or a young guy like Andrew Billings. Sims would be about as
bad as having Peko there still, and Billings missed all of last year with an
On the outside, the depth chart is the same so far Eric Weddle
Jersey , minus Hunt, who was easily the best of the three backups
taking edge rusher snaps for the team. That was bad one year ago, and we have no
reason to expect better from those same guys a year later.
This is a spot the team surely will look to in the draft, but even an
addition or two may not be worth getting too excited over. Cincinnati has a
tendency to focus on letting draft picks sit and learn in their early years
rather than throw them into the fire, so an immediate impact could be
If they don’t go against that thinking, this line could fully recede to the
abysmal levels we saw from them in 2014. Should that happen, even 6-9-1 would
probably be a tough outcome to reach, much less surpass.
The defensive line may have been the strength of the defense in their best
moments, but the area of the team where they’ve spent the most capital during
their success has been the cornerback spot. This team has spent not only money
for big contracts on corners during their success this decade, but they’ve used
numerous high draft picks on cornerbacks as well.