The AFC North has a lockdown on the league’s top rankings in yards allowed on defense.
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Baltimore top the overall list.
The Bengals are the big surprise of that group, especially after losing key personnel like Johnathan Joseph in the offseason. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer attributes the success in part to scaling back things because of the lockout.
“I called Bill Parcells and Chuck Fairbanks in the offseason, and we talked about how to catch up, since I figured we’d be so far behind,” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told Albert Breer of NFL.com this week. “Those guys have been through camps without OTAs and that sort of thing, and one thing they told me is that if you try to put everything in, you’ll have a big mess and the players will be confused. So we went slow, putting in one coverage and one or two base pressures a day through camp.”
This approach is similar to the one Bill Belichick took in New England. He went with a 4-3 base defense this year in part because it would be easier to teach the basics with fewer practices.
The Bengals approach has worked better than in New England. Cincinnati has avoided the miscommunication mistakes that have plagued other groups.
“Basically, we’ve slowed it down so guys can play reckless,” Zimmer said.
The schedule gets much tougher after the bye week. The Bengals are 4-2 in part because they have played weak opponents. Perhaps the fast start will give this Bengals team the confidence they can play with anyone, in large part because of Zimmer’s defense.