The Bengals defensive line will be relied upon to put pressure on the quarterback this upcoming season.
The pass rush is probably the weakest part of the Bengals' defense. Last season, the Bengals put up 34 sacks—good for 16th in the NFL.
That number looks even worse considering Antwan Odom picked up five sacks in one game against the Green Bay Packers.
They blitzed a lot to create pressure but that won't get it done this season against the top notch quarterbacks they have on the schedule.
They addressed the line's problems in the draft when they picked Carlos Dunlap in the second round and Geno Atkins in the fourth.
The Bengals may carry nine defensive linemen this year.
Here are the candidates for those spots.
2009 stats—19 tackles/eight sacks
Odom was the NFL sack leader through six games last season. The Bengals pass rush fell apart when Odom got injured. They had just just eight sacks in the last six games and none in the last two.
Odom's recovery has gone well. The Bengals are expecting that he will be 100 percent for the start of training camp.
He may decline a bit due to his Achilles injury, but Odom is still the best pass rusher the team has.
There is some speculation that Odom could be traded or released if he gets injured or outplayed at training camp.
That seems unlikely, though.
2009 stats—23 tackles
When Peko is healthy, he is a run-stuffer on the Bengals' line. The Bengals' run defense was ineffective with Peko out of the lineup.
Expect to see his hair flowing throughout the season for the Bengals.
2009 stats—29 tackles/two sacks
This offseason, the Bengals re-signed defensive tackle Tank Johnson to a four-year contract. He should start next to Domata Peko.
Johnson is better at penetration than plugging.
He will be a major part of the rotation.
Dunlap is a potential beast at 6'6" and 277 pounds with 4.6-second 40-yard dash.
Like Michael Johnson last season, Dunlap has been dinged for his lack of consistency and effort. When it is all said and done, he may surpass Antwan Odom as the best pure pass rusher on this team.
There should be no doubt about this stud making the squad.
2009 stats—17 tackles/three sacks/five swats
Mike Zimmer wants to try Johnson as a "3-4 wild card." This would give the defense a different look on passing downs.
He played mostly on 3rd downs last season, but showed some play making ability with three sacks and five passes batted down in limited time.
He is currently listed as a linebacker on the roster.
This freak is a lock.
2009 stats—34 tackles/0.5 sack
Sims is a solid run defender.
In 2008, Sims teamed up with Domata Peko to key a defensive turnaround in the trenches. That season, he put up 50 tackles in just 11 games and was expected to be the starter in 2009.
He is signed cheaply and should stick.
2009 stats—36 tackles/3.5 sacks
Geathers' starting job looks to be in danger. He has not done well as a three-down end.
Giving Geathers $34 million dollars after his ten-sack 2006 season, has proven to be a mistake. If he is on the team, Mike Zimmer will likely use Geathers as a situational rusher.
Making the team shouldn't surprise anyone, but Geathers is a candidate for release or trade.
2009 stats—36 tackles/six sacks
Fanene was a backup defensive tackle at the start of the season but moved to defensive end when Odom went down.
Fanene had a big game in the second contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers (two sacks, two quarterback hits, six tackles, two tackles for a loss, and a pass defended) but declined after that.
He only got one sack in the last seven games, but he did manage 16 tackles over that same period.
Fanene provides quality depth; he'll make the squad.
2009 stats—seven tackles
Prior to the 2009 season, the Bengals traded Harris to the St. Louis Rams for Brian Leonard. He's nothing more than a rotational lineman if he can get on the field.
Harris is likely to be cut.
Atkins may be able to get to the passer up the middle. He should earn a spot as a situational interior pass rusher this season.
It would be unlikely that the Bengals would cut a fourth round draft pick, but there are no guarantees in the NFL.
2009 stats—13 tackles/one sack
Rucker isn't very good.
He is injury-prone and isn't able to earn more than a few plays a game. He should have seen the writing on the wall when Carlos Dunlap was drafted.
Rucker may play all out to make the team as the ninth man or get noticed by another team.
Despite all of the negatives, the Bengals gave Rucker a two-year contract in May so they may have plans for him.
He is versatile, though.
Fresh out of Louisiana State, the Bengals signed Alem as an undrafted free agent this offseason. Alem showed speed at the NFL Scouting Combine when he ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash.
Alem is looking at a season on the practice squad.
McDonald has little chance to make the team. As you can now see, he is behind a lot of talent.
His motor may earn him a spot on the practice squad though.
Who do you think the Bengals' linemen will be? While thinking about that, check out these other Bengals articles:
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This is a list of Bengal weaknesses.
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This article reviews the Bengals' minicamp.
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This article gives five reasons why the Bengals signed Adam "Pacman" Jones.
This article asks some questions about the Bengals' draft.
This article wonders whether Marvin Lewis should be signed to an extension.
This article questions the Antonio Bryant signing.
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