The defensive side of the football has been the strength of the Cincinnati Bengals for several seasons, especially the line. Able to generate consistent pressure both from the outside and the inside, opposing quarterbacks were rushed into mistakes the rest of the defense capitalized on. The Bengals have been able to win a lot of low-scoring games in this manner, masking an offense that has struggled at times. The interior of the line, led by Geno Atkins, has looked as good as any in the league over the past few years, which made it all the more curious to fans when the team used both their second and third round draft picks on defensive tackles at last year’s NFL Draft.
With the loss of DT Pat Sims earlier this week in free agency, it becomes clear that Devon Still and Brandon Thompson are going to be asked to contribute more in 2013 than in 2012. Thompson in particular is going to need to fill a lot of the minutes that Sims provided in stopping the running game. At approximately 320 pounds, Thompson has the size and strength to take on the role that Sims held on the line. Still will also likely see more playing time, moving into the rotation to keep guys fresh. More of a pass-rushing DT, he will hopefully be able to give Atkins some plays off, and enable everybody to stay healthy going into the latter stages of games.
In order for the Bengals to keep their momentum up, like other teams that are consistently contenders, they have to be able to replace players that leave with guys who can step in and fill their shoes adequately. The Bengals assuredly selected Still and Thompson with the knowledge that they would be losing starters at some point, and needed to keep their strength at the interior position. Both were considered to be value picks at the points they were taken, and if both can be solid contributors, then once again the Bengals look like a team that has figured out the draft. If they fail, with the other losses fans have endured so far in free agency, Cincinnati will undo a lot of the goodwill they’ve gained.