The jury is still out concerning if head coach Zac Taylor is the man to turn things around for the Cincinnati Bengals, but we should get a better sense of things to come in 2020. While much of the attention will go to the offense and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the Bengals did a nice job beefing up their defense in free agency.
Cincinnati had the fourth-worst defense in the league last year when it came to yards allowed per game (393.7), and the worst defense when it came to rushing yards allowed per game (148.9). The Bengals worked to fix this issue by signing former Houston Texans defensive tackle D.J. Reader and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Josh Bynes. Cincinnati also beefed up the secondary by signing former Minnesota Vikings cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, as well as former Tennessee Titans cornerback LeShaun Sims and New Orleans Saints safety Vonn Bell. Bengals defensive coordinator and former New York Giants defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo has been working to teach the players his new scheme as quickly as possible since they all can't meet in-person due to the ongoing pandemic.
"We are giving them maybe even more pop quizzes than we normally would. We're trying to be creative on how we use their time with this," Anarumo explained to The Enquirer. "We are where we need to be from a mental standpoint."
So far, Anarumo has been pleased with the leadership his new additions have shown in meetings. They are clearly eager to come in and make an immediate impact on the team that was the worst in the league last season.
"The new guys have communicated well. D.J. Reader has spoke up in the d-line meetings. Josh Bynes has done a good job as a veteran communicating in the linebacker meetings. In the backend, you have a bunch of guys who like to stick their chest out, if you will, in Vonn Bell and Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander," Anarumo said. "All those guys have done well."
Like many sports fans around the world, Anarumo was recently captivated by the ESPN documentary centered around Michael Jordan: "The Last Dance." Anarumo called Jordan the best basketball player of all time both because of his accomplishments as well as the intensity he had in both games and practices. That competitive drive Jordan possessed was what led the Chicago Bulls to so much success, and he hopes that his defense has that kind of drive when they face adversity for the first time in 2020.
"Until we get out there in practice and something doesn't go the way it's supposed to, like when you saw in 'The Last Dance' with Jordan, when it's not going right that's when you're going to find out who you got," Anarumo said.
We'll see how quickly the Bengals can turn things around with several talented new faces, but the defense looks poised to make an immediate improvement.