|The Bengals defense will look to avoid allowing future opponents to move the ball as easily a Trent Richardson and the Browns did Sunday. (US Presswire)|
Through two games, the Bengals are 1-1, but those are about the only numbers players on the defensive ball want to think about.
The rest are downright ugly.
- The 617 passing yards allowed over the first two weeks of the season are the most allowed by any Bengals team through two weeks.
- Only twice the last 30 years have the Bengals allowed 400 total yards through the first two weeks.
- They currently rank 30th in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (434.5).
- They are worst in the NFL in average yards allowed on first down (8.36).
- They are dead last in the league in yards allowed per play (7.24).
The numbers are piling up around this group which finished last year ranked seventh in the NFL. Realistic goals were set before the season to evolve into the best defense in the league. Yet, two weeks in, not only are they not the best defense, they've become a liability to the team's future chances.
Also, they've become a hazard to the blood pressure of fiery defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. He stated he's not going to stand pat on starting positions for players who continue to fail. He's unaccustomed to these types of back-to-back performances. Zimmer's defenses in Cincinnati have finished in the top seven twice and never below 15.
“I think I can speak for everybody in that part of the reason we go out there and play like we do is to make Zimmer proud,” said CB Leon Hall, who admitted Zimmer was in the vicinity of as mad as he's seen the DC. “He puts so much work into it, and he really pours his heart into it. He expects a lot out of us, so we really want to go out there and execute what he teaches us. To not do that, it's hard to deal with. We just have to go out there and correct it and get back to playing the defense that we know we can play.”
How much better can they realistically expect to play? Sitting in the bottom five of the league doesn't doom the defense for the season, but recent history shows it's been a nearly impossible hole to dig out of and still finish as a top tier defense.
Here is a list of the teams to be sitting in the bottom five of the league in defense through two weeks the last two seasons and where they finished.
Team: First two weeks of season rank/Final rank
Green Bay: 30/32
New England: 31/31
St. Louis: 28/19
St. Louis: 29/29
Tampa Bay: 31/27
- Of the 15 teams to find themselves in the bottom five through two weeks, only one worked back to a top 10 rating and only three even ended up in the top half of the league.
- Seven of the 15 teams also finished the season among the bottom five defenses in the league.
While there may be 14 more games for the defense to regroup, history says the odds are slim the Bengals actually do.
As for how it needs to be done, the expected return of top pass rusher DE Carlos Dunlap (knee) this week along with cornerback Jason Allen (quad) will provide a lift, but improvements need to be made across the board. Or else the Zimmer Anger Scale will jump one step closer to boil.
Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter at @CBSBengals.