According to Bryan McIntyre of NFL.com, the Cincinnati Bengals have extended the contract of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. The news comes on the same day the team announced the signing of third-round draft choice Brandon Thompson, reported by Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.
Resolving Zimmer's future and having Thompson available for the start of training camp is welcome news for the Bengals defense. The unit was rocked by earlier reports from NFL.com that rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had sustained a serious knee injury.
However, Cincinnati's players should be confident that Zimmer will handle the loss of the team's first-round pick. Since joining the Bengals in 2007, Zimmer has coordinated some of the toughest and smartest defensive units in the NFL.
Last season, his defense ranked seventh overall and keyed the Bengals' run to the playoffs. What's been most impressive about Zimmer's tenure is that he has crafted strong defenses without an abundance of household names or elite talent.
Also, in an AFC North division that has favoured the 3-4 scheme for years, Zimmer has stuck with his preferred 4-3 front. He has often relied on man coverage concepts, while many around the league have been seduced by fire zone schemes.
His coaching has improved players like cornerback Leon Hall and nose tackle Domata Peko. That's good news for Thompson, one of two defensive tackles selected by the Bengals in the 2012 NFL draft.
The ex-Clemson standout is a classic 4-3 plugger who brings tremendous power and deceptive first-step quickness to Zimmer's deep line rotation. The Bengals could need a player like Thompson sooner than anticipated, after their normally stout run defense let them down at crucial times last season.
Baltimore Ravens runner Ray Rice topped 100 yards rushing twice against the Cincinnati D and Houston Texans star Arian Foster simply dominated them in the playoffs. Zimmer should find plenty of ways to utilise Thompson as an effective counter-measure.