CINCINNATI Cincinnati BengalsLou Anarumo, defensive coordinator of the NFL draft, was able to smile the first night.
After all, Anarumo's unit was one of the main reasons Bengals season-ticket holders posed for photos with the AFC championship trophy at the team’s draft party last Thursday. Cincinnati forced nine turnovers during the postseason, and teams were limited to 1.86 points per drives in their unlikely run to Super Bowl. Los Angeles Rams.
Cincinnati’s 2022 draft class gave Anarumo even more reasons to grin. Five of the team’s six picks were defensive players, including the top three selections. Anarumo has the pieces in place to keep opposing offenses on the edge in 2022 and beyond, thanks to this year's draft.
The Bengals’ draft strategy supports Anarumo’s belief that versatility is the best way to defend the high-powered offenses that have defined the NFL in recent years.
“The more they can do, the better,” Anarumo said of the team's defensive haul.
That phrase could double as the unofficial motto for the fourth-year coordinator’s defensive philosophy. Cincinnati’s first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years was achieved in large part because of Anarumo’s ability to adjust his game plan from week to week.
These were the two games Cincinnati played in against the Kansas City ChiefsThese were just a few examples of such flexibility. In Week 17, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes faced significantly more Cover 3 looks than man-to-man coverage with two deep safeties, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The game plan was rearranged when the Bengals faced the Chiefs in the AFC title match four weeks later.
Although the methods may have changed, the results remained the same. The Kansas City offense was unable to score a touchdown in each of the games. Anarumo managed to split the games using basically the same personnel. The top four defensive backs were safety. Jessie Bates IIISafety Vonn Bell, and outward cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie Eli AppleEvery snap can be played
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Every one of the Bengals' defensive players was able to play at different positions during college.
Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, Cincinnati’s second-round pick out of Nebraska, did a number of different things in the Cornhusker secondary.
“He’s a good press corner, but he has also shown some flexibility in playing in deep zones and some safety stuff, but also as a corner,” Anarumo said. “So, he has done a little bit of everything, which is great.”
Just as importantly, this year’s draft class is eager to embrace the idea of playing multiple roles in the NFL. Daxton Hill, Cincinnati’s first-round pick, played safety and slot cornerback at Michigan. Hill, who is a rookie could be part of dime packages with six defensivebacks and could also be requested to take on other duties in Bengals backfield.
“I don’t really want to limit myself, because I know I can play other positions — whatever that may be, whenever that may be,” Hill said after he was drafted. “I’m ready for the journey.”
Hill, Taylor-Britt, and safety Tycen Anderson, the team’s fifth-round pick out of Toledo, all ran 40-yard dashes under 4.4 seconds during their pre-draft workouts. This speed will enable the Bengals to keep up with a league full of dynamic and fast wide receivers.
However, as important as all these traits are, it is just as important to be able to perform multiple tasks and play multiple roles. Zac Taylor, Bengals head coach, believes Cincinnati has drafted an intelligent team that can handle the demands of the job.
“We think that matters,” Taylor said. “It matters just getting to the line pre-snap and making the right adjustments post-snap. So when you’re combating that with the talent that’s on the other side of the ball, you’ve got guys that can play fast and confidently and communicate.”
Last year, Anarumo's unit was arguably the biggest surprise as the Bengals transformed from the NFL’s worst team in 2019 to being one possession away from winning the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati won’t sneak up on anyone this season. This draft class may help their DC's ever-changing defense continue to play at a championship standard.
It’s the type of personnel and planning they will need if they want an even bigger trophy to display during next year’s draft.