Late in the first quarter of their week two match-up with the Dallas Cowboys, the Cincinnati Bengals defense surrendered a rushing touchdown to Tony Pollard. The one yard score gave Dallas a 14 – 3 lead. The Cowboys would win the game 20 – 17, but linebacker Logan Wilson and crew wouldn’t allow another touchdown in the game.
The New York Jets wouldn’t score a touchdown in week three either. Week four brought the undefeated Miami Dolphins to town. They also would fail to find the end zone.
The 2022 season has not started how Bengals fans envisioned it, coming off a Super Bowl run last season. The offense sputtered and the team started with consecutive losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Cowboys team led by their backup quarterback.
Joe Burrow struggled throwing the football and took a number of sacks. Meanwhile, running back Joe Mixon couldn’t find any room to maneuver. The passing game, which thrived on big plays last year, was bottled and the offense suffered.
On the other side of the ball, though, an identity was being established. Led by Wilson, the Cincinnati Bengals defense was quietly establishing itself as one of the league’s best. Calling them a ragtag group might be pushing it, but the starting lineup is loaded with free agent cast-offs and mid-to-late round draft picks. They’re underrated, but after four weeks, it’s time they start getting the credit they deserve. Here are the names everyone needs to know.
Stars of the Cincinnati Bengals Defense
A 2020 third round pick, Logan Wilson has become a force in the middle of the Cincinnati Bengals defense. His instincts in the run game are terrific, and though he’s not as fast as some, he moves down the line and gets downhill in a hurry. He’s a sure tackler, but his versatility really makes him stand out. In his time in the NFL, he already has seven interceptions, which leads all linebackers since 2020. He’s building a Pro Bowl resume thus far in 2022.
The 2020 off-season saw the Bengals go on a spending spree, with defensive tackle DJ Reader as the centerpiece. The big run stuffer got a big payday — and has been worth every penny. An injury has him sidelined for a few weeks, but so far this season, he’s been dominant.
The power he generates allows him to fend off double-teams and even when he appears to be out of a play, he still manages to make tackles. His ability to shut down running games is a big part of what the team wants to do.
A former second round pick of the Cowboys, Chidobe Awuzie joined the Bengals prior to the 2021 season. While he’s neither the biggest, nor the fastest, cornerback in the league, his technique is as good as anybody’s and he rarely finds himself in a bad position. He and the rest of the secondary do a good job of limiting big plays and keeping opposing teams out of the end zone.
The 2020 off-season saw safety Vonn Bell as another addition to the Cincinnati Bengals defense. In his two seasons in Cincinnati, he has made some of the defense’s most iconic plays.
His hit on former Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is still social media fodder. He also sealed a trip to the Super Bowl with an overtime interception of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. This season, he has brought physicality to the secondary and had two interceptions against the Dolphins.
Defensive lineman Sam Hubbard is one of the veteran leaders of the defense. He doesn’t get the recognition that his opposite, Trey Hendrickson, gets, but he is a playmaker nonetheless. He excels as a run defender, but is underappreciated as a pass rusher. He’s not flashy, but he has to be accounted for by opposing offensive lines.
The Bengals are a team loaded on offense. Burrow and his skill players are as talented as any offense in the league, despite the slow start. The defense, on the other hand, doesn’t have multiple top draft picks leading the way. But they’re getting it done anyway.
Logan Wilson and company aren’t grabbing headlines, but through four weeks, they’re putting their team in position to win games. Their names may not be well-known right now, but if they keep it up, it won’t be long until everyone knows who they are.