The Cincinnati Bengals' defensive line was a huge part of the success of Mike Zimmer's defense in 2011. The departure of Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene via free agency threatened to break up the rotation of linemen that enabled Cincinnati to record 85 sacks last season, fifth best in the NFL. Two moves late yesterday and this morning have more than made up for that.
The first signing involved bringing Jamaal Anderson, a former first round draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons when Mike Zimmer was defensive coordinator there, to Cincinnati. Anderson struggled in the Atlanta system and the Falcons let him walk via free agency last season where he signed a one year deal with Indianapolis. With the Colts, Anderson regained his form a bit, playing behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He recorded 3.5 sacks last season in part time action, his best season so far as a professional. At 6'5" and 288 pounds, he's also proved to be very effective against the run. He will most likely assume that role, similar to that of Rucker's, for Cincinnati.
The other move brings back a valuable member of last season's line. Defensive tackle Pat Sims explored the free agent market and opted to return to the Bengals. Sims played valuable minutes, rotating with Fanene to spell starting DTs Domata Peko and Geno Atkins. His return, along with Nick Hayden's, returns the extreme depth the Bengals had at that position.
Reports surfaced Saturday that Jacksonville DE Matt Roth was also visiting Cincinnati. Along with the recently signed Derrick Harvey, this would create quite the training camp battle at defensive end along with Anderson, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers.
Even with the losses in free agency, it would appear the Cincinnati defensive line will at least retain and possibly improve its trademark depth of last season. If the Bengals continue that effectiveness on their defensive front, that spells bad news for the rest of the AFC North.
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