Does James Harrison Make Cincinnati Bengals' Defense Elite?

By Andrew Fisher
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals quietly put one of the league’s best defensive units on the field last season. The Bengals ranked in the top-10 in – yards allowed per game, points allowed per game, and fewest penalty yards. It was a very reliable unit, that was the backbone of a team that made a second consecutive playoff appearance. Now with the 2013 season approaching, expectations figure to be there going forward.

Of course the big news for the Cincinnati-D, was the signing of linebacker James Harrison. The former defensive player of the year will head west, to join a former AFC North opponent.

But at 34-years old, many are wondering how much Harrison has left in the tank. If he does indeed have some fuel left, will it be enough to propel the Cincinnati-D to elite status?

I’m not sold on Harrison still being a game-changer. Pittsburgh let him walk for a reason, and if you take one look at his stats, you can see why. Over the past two years, the LB has missed eight games, while experiencing a drop in production in all major statistical categories.

However, I think the Bengals are bringing him in for more than just on-the-field production. There’s a lot to be said for veteran leaders on defense, especially at linebacker. Harrison is a five-time Pro Bowler, and a Super Bowl champion. He’ll bring a presence and an attitude to the locker room, something Cincinnati could benefit from. For the most part, the nucleus of the team is young, so adding a savvy veteran like Harrison, should be a positive thing.

Will he alone take the ‘D’ to the next level of elite? Probably not, but if healthy, the unit should be improved. At the same time, they’ll have to be hopeful that Harrison now has a chip on his shoulder, after being told he wasn’t wanted in Pittsburgh anymore.


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