In 2005 the Bengals made it to the playoffs by having a great offensive season and being one of the best teams at forcing turnovers. Since that season they have been a decent offense and one of the worse defenses in the NFL.
Last season they had a ray of hope with Mike Zimmer taking over as defensive coordinator leading the team close to the top 10.
Defensively, the Bengals have had a great off-season in the draft and free agency. They have managed to grab Rey Maualuga in the second round, which, in my opinion, was one of the biggest steals in the draft.
They have also acquired Roy Williams out of Dallas. This puts a veteran player in around the younger players and helps them develop. They originally tried this with Dexter Jackson, but he was plagued with injuries and was released by the Bengals this season.
Keith Rivers is returning this season after suffering a season-ending injury against Pittsburgh, and I expect him to continue to grow and become a great linebacker for the Bengals.
When you look at the talent they are bringing in from last season, this finally looks like a defensive unit that can live up to AFC North expectations.
I look for them to continue to help their team get better, and to single-handedly get their team victories.
A great defense doesn't only help against other teams, with a great defense the offense benefits, as well.
When you listened to interviews with Mark Sanchez just before he was drafted, the biggest thing he used to defend him coming out early was saying he played against the best defense every day and it has made him a better player and NFL ready.
It may not be starters vs. starters in the NFL, but it will get the younger players to play better and help develop the future defenders.
The Bengals will also be helped because the teams they will be playing are not the most threatening offensively, as they play in a division with teams known for defense.
The Steelers rely a lot on their running game, and Baltimore does the same thing. Both of their quarterbacks are mediocre if you get pressure on them early and don't let them step into their comfort zones.
The big step they need to take in order for the Bengals to win a lot more games this season is their ability to stop the run as well as establishing a successful pass rush, and I think the Bengals will do that this season.
If the Bengals have any shot of making it to the top of the AFC North tower, which is consistently dominated by Baltimore and Pittsburgh, they will need to be able to rely on their defense.
Time will tell if the Bengals have found the formula for success.