Jessie Bates returns to team facilities last Tuesday morning to sign his franchise tag. Word came out quick from press conferences of how excited the Bengals were to have their star safety back. Many players and coaches on the Bengals have considered Bates the QB of the defense, the guy getting everyone in their spots and really sees the whole field on that back end. This defense that mostly returns everyone who contributed to an AFC championship run, who many thought carried this team at times during the playoffs got even scarier. It seems the Bengals feel already Dax Hill is showing to be a steal at pick 31 in the draft. They have spent the offseason moving him all around the secondary. Lou Anarumo is not only praising Hill for his ability to play everywhere but says this defense is one of the most versatile units he has ever coached. During training camp this defense even seen its most criticized player last year finish camp being talked about his improvement in Eli Apple from watching his battles with Ja’Marr Chase.
So, what does it all mean? It means the Bengals got one of their biggest leaders in the locker room back and on top of it all he is on a prove it deal with the franchise tag and is going to be flying around not happy about it. I can see this being Bates best year for the simple fact he is coming in with the mindset that this is another audition not just for Cincinnati but for the rest of the league looking to bring in a safety next offseason. Now throw in your fallback plan Dax Hill who has showed he is ready for some major snaps allows the Bengals to put the rookie in situations he can gain confidence and excel at. It also gives this defense an extra ball hawk to throw in there in 3rd and long in obvious passing situations to really unleash that three-safety look. With so many starters back the only real question the Bengals are looking to find out is who is going to be that interior defensive lineman who can come in and cause pressure up the middle. They drafted Zach Carter in the third round of this draft, an edge player the coaches seen as someone they can bump inside to cause some havoc upfront should split some reps with Cam Sample who they moved inside from defensive end for snaps late in the season last year.
The defense versatility gives a lot to be desired for a team looking to make another Super Bowl run. Just imagine the possibilities of different looks you can give an offense and how well the Bengals are going to be able to disguise their formation. I think this is easily not only a top 5 defense now that Bates has rejoined the team, but I think this will be the defense that leads the league in turnovers. There are too many ball hawks on that side of the ball to not believe this team dramatically sees an increase in take aways. Where many start with defensive back I actually start with linebacker here, Logan Wilson is mister right place right time for this unit paired with an Akeem Davis-Gaither and Germain Pratt who I believe put together one of the best pass coverage units at linebacker. Then when you look at the secondary Mike Hilton has played himself into talks of being one of the best slot corners in the league to go with Chidobe Awuzie who really stepped up as this teams CB1 after signing from Dallas. I think where many had the biggest concern once again was Eli Apple but I mean the talks out of camp is he has had some good battles with Chase, it’s never being said that Apple is completely locking down Chase but its closer to 50/50-win percentage then I think many would have expected. Overall, I can’t wait to see this unit go out and perform, with the offense Bengals fan knows it should have no problems seeing a step up with additions and young talent getting another year but this defense by the end of the year will have fans saying the Bengals have never put a product like this out on the field.