The 2011 campaign will be remembered for what the offense produced for the future. Yet ask any true football fan about Mike Zimmer or the Bengals defense and one will easily see what it takes to succeed in the NFL.
At the end of 2010, the dynamic duo was not TO or Ochocino, but two rookie linesmen in Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins.
Dunlap amassed 9.5 sacks to go with 24 tackles combined while Atkins was second in sacks for the Bengals with three to go along with 16 tackles.
Marvin Lewis had brought two rookies up slowly, but like Jerome Simpson on the offensive side, the Bengals young defenders made the most of their opportunities.
Reaching back to 2009, Bengals nation was salivating at the prospects of not only having an Antwan Odom (prior to his season ending injury) but having two prospects to lend a hand.
Fast forward to a 2011 season in which Dunlap felt the injury bug that did not allow him to live up to the 2010 ending (to date: four sacks and 17 combined tackles) and Atkins is clearly off of his statistical diet as a backup come starter in 2011 (eight sacks, 45 combined tackles).
While many put the future of the defense on the prowess of Mike Zimmer, the tools in the shed —except for a suspect secondary— are clearly very sharp and ready to cut down opposing offenses.