The Cincinnati Bengals have not gotten off to the start that they were hoping four. Through eight games, they have already assured that they will finish the 2016 season with a worse record that they achieved last year, having lost four games and managing to come to a draw last week. They have just three victories, including the season opener, which required a late game-winning drive.
While the offense has certainly played its part in the Bengals’ struggles, the defense is far from off the hook. And according to defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, Cincinnati is going to utilize its bye week to evaluate its personnel to decide who deserves to play more snaps, and who needs to see less time on the field, regardless of pedigree or status.
Guenther mentioned three players in particular who he thinks may be in line for more playing time going forward, while maintaining the established core of the defense, which includes a couple of Pro Bowlers along the defensive line, as well as Vontaze Burfict at linebacker, and Adam Jones at the cornerback position. Other than that, the other positions may be up for grabs.
Among those mentioned as possibly seeing more playing time is rookie linebacker Nick Vigil, whom the Bengals have been quite high on since they drafted him. He has only seen 11 snaps on defense up to this point, but that could change, at the expense of a Karlos Dansby or a Vincent Rey.
One player who has actually been gaining more playing time, and who is likely to continue to see more and more time on the field, is defensive end Will Clarke, who has dealt with injuries in his young career. He played over 40 snaps last week, and Guenther suggested that that will continue—which means less time for Michael Johnson.
Also in line for a greater role may be cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who has played just 130 snaps this season. while he has missed one game and had some issues with injuries, the Bengals have been opting to play others in the slot over him, but he may solidify that role for himself during the bye week.
As a team, the Bengals are giving up 23,6 points per game, which ranks 19th. In the league. After giving up over 450 through the air yards in London, their 262 passing yards allowed per game ranks 21st. coupled with a 23rd-ranked run defense, surrendering 116 yards per game, they have overall given up 378.5 yards per game, which is the ninth-worst total in all the NFL.
I don’t want to editorialize on those numbers too much, but suffice it to say that they are not particularly good, and they show that the Bengals’ struggles can’t all be thrown upon the shoulders of an offense that went through an offseason upheaval. So it’s no wonder that they are exploring their options in terms of potential personnel changes.