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Morning Stripes: Talking Bengals defense

2/24/2014

As you may have seen from the dateline in this story on Giovani Bernard on Sunday, I ventured back to Cincinnati from Indianapolis a day ahead of other media.

For that reason, I was unable to sit in on a session Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther had with a few of the local media who cover the team. No fear, though. That's what the Morning Stripes are for. We'll be getting more into what he said to the crew that was assembled in the links below.

Much like his offensive counterpart, Hue Jackson, who spoke a day before, Guenther covered a variety of topics in his conversation. He talked about how the Bengals' defense will feature minor tweaks from former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's scheme. No dramatic overhauls from the 4-3, blitz-based system will come, other than the fact that there may be more mixing of defensive front looks, pressures and personnels. After the Bengals were forced at times to move defensive ends Wallace Gilberry and Margus Hunt and linebacker James Harrison into the interior of the line following defensive tackle Geno Atkins' midseason injury, they saw how changing fronts can confuse offensive lines.

Guenther also would like to be a little more creative with some of his blitz packages, bringing members of his secondary into the backfield through different gaps that will formed by the various defensive fronts he'll employ.

Additionally, while there is a desire to draft defensive backs given the strength of this overall DB class, Guenther made it known that he and the Bengals weren't married to the idea of using their No. 24 pick on a corner like many, including yours truly, believe. If a defensive end or tackle who matches what Guenther wants to do with his changing fronts exists at the late first-round selection, the Bengals will take him, Guenther said.

Or if a linebacker, like Florida State's Christian Jones, who met with Bengals officials over the weekend, is there when Cincinnati picks late in the second round, he'll be added to the ranks, as well. Even though there are no pressing needs this coming season because so many starters are returning, the Bengals still want to be smart about whom they draft. We'll see if what Guenther says holds true. But for now, still keep cornerbacks on your radar because so many good ones ought to be on the board late in the first round.

The defensive back decision is where we begin this Monday's Morning Stripes:

  • The Bengals' defensive options in this draft begin in the backfield, writes Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen, who also cites Guenther as having said cornerbacks have tough jobs in the Bengals' scheme. Without a lot of help over the top because of the occasional single-high coverages or lack of double teams the Bengals employ, their corners find themselves on islands with receivers a lot of times. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy also looked at defensive back as a possible early-round draft priority.

  • Sticking with the Enquirer, Paul Dehner Jr., Reedy's soon-to-be replacement, writes here about the lack of changes coming to the defense. The only real tweaks Guenther wants include the aforementioned defensive line fronts.

  • Finally, from Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson, here is a brief look at how the quarterbacks in this year's draft class evolved over the course of the weekend. There may be a Bengals backup in this class, after all. Alabama product AJ McCarron was arguably the biggest rising prospect, putting on a solid performance during Sunday's combine drills. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock told Hobson he was most impressed with McCarron as a mid-round prospect, but believes others could be there for the Bengals when they're ready to draft a backup quarterback.