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Sunday, March 25, 2012
Have Bengals improved defensive line?

By Jamison Hensley

The Bengals continued their focus on the defensive line, announcing Saturday that they've re-signed backup tackle Pat Sims. It was the latest, and perhaps last, free-agent move by the Bengals involving their defensive line, which was the best in the AFC North in 2011.

Has the Bengals defensive line improved from last season or has it weakened? On paper, it looks the Bengals have taken a step back.


Cincinnati lost two key contributors in free agency: defensive end Frostee Rucker (Browns) and defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene (Patriots). The Bengals will miss defensive end Rucker's ability to stop the run and Fanene's motor in the pass rush.

Their additions have been two defensive ends who carry labels as first-round disappointments: Jamaal Anderson and Derrick Harvey. But they will be part of the rotation and won't really determine whether the Bengals are better or worse on the defensive line.

The Bengals' defensive line can be more productive than last year if defensive end Carlos Dunlap can stay healthy and defensive end Michael Johnson can bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season. Dunlap is the Bengals' top pass-rusher, and Johnson has intriguing upside.

So, have the Bengals improved their defensive line? Dunlap and Johnson are the only ones who can answer that question.