A.J. Green SCOREBOARD ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES SPORT 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 PLAYOFF FINISH WC WC WC - WC REGULAR SEASON W-L 11-5 10-6 9-7 4-12 10-6 POINTS PER GAME 26.8 24.4 21.5 20.1 19.0 POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME 19.0 20.0 20.1 24.6 18.1 YARDS PER GAME 368.1 332.6 319.8 330.5 309.1 YARDS ALLOWED PER GAME 305.5 319.6 316.2 332.0 301.3 TURNOVERS 30 25 19 31 23 TAKEAWAYS 31 30 22 26 25 quarterback ever with 10 or more starts. If Dalton can continue to perform and stay healthy through the regular season, all eyes will be on him in the postseason. That’s how the elite quarterbacks are ultimately judged. Bengals Defense After 12 years as an NFL head coach (the last 10 spent with the Bengals), Paul Guenther will be taking over over as the team’s defensive coordinator. Guenther spent the last two seasons as the linebackers coach, aiding in the development of 2013 Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Guenther is an out-of-the-box thinker who is likely to install a complex scheme with the intent on putting a ton of pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Bengals’ rushing defense allowed only six touchdowns to cap off drives last season. Overall, the Bengals gave up 28 touchdowns. In their playoff loss, they allowed a pair of rushing touchdowns. Nose tackle Domata Peko emerged as a major presence last season with 52 tackles and three sacks. When Pro Bowl performer Geno Atkins went down with an injury, Brandon Thompson elevated his level of play with a career-high 23 tackles. That experience should pay dividends this season. Cincinnati’s secondary could wind up having a large impact, especially with the addition of first round pick Darqueze Dennard. Head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters that Dennard is the “best rookie corner I’ve seen.” High praise indeed. Terence Newman and Adam “Pacman” Jones are back along with George Iloka, a fifth-round pick in 2012. If Leon Hall can rebound (Hall missed the last nine games in 2013 with an achilles injury) to have a big season, it will stabilize the secondary even more. When the Bengals’ defense is stingy, they have a much better chance to win on a consistent basis. It also alleviates the pressure on the offense, which is always crucial. Defensive Player to Watch It’s hard to believe that Burfict went undrafted two years ago out of Arizona State University. Burfict has compiled 298 tackles, four sacks and one interception in his first two seasons. He also has a knack for making huge plays at key points in the game. Burfict earned a spot in the Pro Bowl last season and looks primed to repeat the feat. With some changes on defense, Key Additions: QB Jason Campbell, OT Marshall Newhouse, S Danieal Manning Key Subtractions: QB Josh Johnson, WR Andrew Hawkins, OT Anthony Collins, C Kyle Cook, DE Michael Johnson, OLB James Harrison, CB Brandon Ghee Rookies: CB Darqueze Dennard, RB Jeremy Hill, DE Will Clarke, OL Russell Bodine, QB A.J. McCarron, LB Marquis Flowers, WR James Wright, CB Lavelle Westbrooks however, Burfict will be asked to take on a larger role. If he can tackle the challenge and lead this defense, they’ll benefit in many ways. Burfict collected 171 tackles alone last season and developed at such a rapid pace. It may be tough to improve on what he accomplished last season. Bengals Special Teams Kicker Mike Nugent was 18 for 22 on field goals and 52 for 53 on extra points last season. Nugent didn’t get a lot of work in terms of field goal attempts, but he proved to be quite accurate. He was 7-for-9 from 40 to 49 yards and 3 for 4 from 50 yards and beyond. Punter Kevin Huber was very consistent and didn’t have one punt blocked all season. Huber also did a nice job of pinning the opposition deep in their territory. Prediction Another winning record should be the goal for the Bengals. Going 11-5 again with at least one playoff win is a realistic expectation for the Bengals. The defense needs to start the season strong so Dalton doesn’t have to put up gargantuan offensive numbers. Overall, this is a very good football team on paper.
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