However, unless quarterback Andy Dalton can cut down on his mistakes considerably—he threw 20 interceptions last season—then the team will need to rely heavily on its defense in 2014 if it is to win its first playoff game since 1990.
Gone with Johnson are the 26.5 sacks he collected during his five seasons in Cincinnati.
Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap were plenty effective last season, combining for 14 sacks between them. The Bengals could easily begin the season with Gilberry and Dunlap as their starting defensive ends, but there is another guy fans around the league should be aware of.
His name is Margus Hunt.
Based on his athletic skills, the former Southern Methodist defensive end who was born in Estonia was one of the more intriguing players in the entire 2013 draft. The Bengals chose him in the second round, and that was about the last anyone heard from him.
However, the Bengals used a high draft choice on him for a reason. They liked what they saw—even if it was very raw potential.
Hunt spent much of his rookie season learning the ropes in Cincinnati, totaling just three tackles and a half a sack in 2013.
Prior to his days as a college football player, Hunt was a discus and hammer thrower, competing all over the world. It wasn't until he reached SMU in 2009 that he even played football.
Hunt is a big man (6'8", 290 lbs) and one of the strongest football players you'll come across.
To go along with his strength, his NFL.com draft profile suggests he has surprising speed and agility as well as great length. In college, he had a penchant for blocking field-goal and extra-point attempts.
The big question for Hunt centers around his knowledge of the system in Cincinnati. He saw little playing time as a rookie, which is an indication that he may not have grasped it as quickly as the coaching staff would have liked.
How do you see Margus Hunt performing in his second season?
With Mike Zimmer moving on to coach the Minnesota Vikings, Paul Guenther will take over as defensive coordinator. Defensive line coach Jay Hayes will be entering his 12th season with the team and has spent the most time with Hunt.
If Hayes is able to make Hunt more effective with his hands, teaching him how to shed blockers while also refining his pass-rushing moves, then Cincinnati would be able to rotate its defensive ends based on situations.
That would make the overall defense much more dangerous.
Though Hunt was invisible as a rookie, the talent is there. If the coaching staff has him ready to contribute in 2014, the Bengals will have an excellent weapon to introduce in 2014.
The Bengals will be just fine with Gilberry and Dunlap. In Hunt, however, they not only have a player who will make them forget about Johnson, but one who can be a bona fide menace to opposing quarterbacks.