Yesterday, we spent a little bit of time discussing the strong challenge that the Buffalo Bills will have game planning for the talented and deep defensive line of the Cincinnati Bengals. For a little more perspective on the group, I sought out a little help from a highly knowledgeable Bengals fan.
First, a little perspective: this group is legitimately eight players deep, all are versatile players, and all have different skill sets and situational specialties.
"There isn’t a single overall player that dominates against the run while being a pass rushing specialist," said Josh Kirkendall of CincyJungle.com. "Guys like Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker are strong pass rushers (four of the five already have a quarterback sack this year), while Pat Sims, Domata Peko and Robert Geathers are much stronger against the run."
Kirkendall lists Atkins and Dunlap first, as well he should. Both were 2010 draft picks - Dunlap a second-round pick out of Florida, and Atkins a fourth-round pick out of Georgia. The two SEC products combined for a surprising 12.5 sacks last season, with 9.5 of those coming from Dunlap, the highly-talented end who fell to the second round because of character and motor questions. Atkins already has two more sacks this year, while Dunlap has been slowly working back from an injury.
Johnson and Sims are two players that gave the Bills problems in a Week 11 matchup last season. Sims - who as Kirkendall points out is better known for his run defense - recorded a half-sack and gave then-right guard Eric Wood all he could handle with the spin move. While Johnson did not record a sack, his length gave Demetrius Bell problems at left tackle; Johnson routinely handled Bell and affected throws and running lanes.
Peko is a stalwart, having been a run-down mainstay for the team for six years now. Fanene, coming off of IR last season, is vastly underrated; he put up six sacks in 2009, and currently leads the Bengals with two through three games.
"It’s a good combination because the rotation keeps these players fresh, as all of them receive a significant number of snaps," explained Kirkendall. "Of all the players on the defensive line last week, Rucker played the least and even then, he posted 24 snaps."
So yeah, as we said yesterday: this group will be a huge test not just for Buffalo's suddenly-revered offensive line, but for Chan Gailey, Ryan Fitzpatrick and every other role player that gets in on protection schemes, as well.