With the hiring of Sean McVay protégé, Zac Taylor as Cincinnati Bengals head coach, the offseason buzz in the Queen City is all about the offense. But retooling the defense is a crucial part of this new regime as well. Very little is known about first-time defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo or what he intends for the Bengals defense. But what’s on record suggests a hint of promise.
Who is Lou Anarumo?
Anarumo joins the Cincinnati Bengals after a one-year stint with the New York Giants as defensive backs coach. Under his tutelage, the Giants finished 24th in passing in 2018. Prior to that, he spent six years in the same position with the Miami Dolphins. In 2015 he served 12 games as interim defensive coordinator when then-coordinator Kevin Coyle was relieved of his duties mid-season. The team finished 25th in total defense that year.
Though Anarumo might not have the metrics of a proven coordinator, he owns plenty of endorsements from current and former players. While in Miami, Jamar Taylor said of Anarumo, “He brings great leadership and the energy that we need to play together.” Current Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap compares Anarumo’s style to that of former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. That’s a ringing endorsement if there ever was one.
What can Bengals fans expect?
So, sure, his players like him. What can Cincinnati fans expect to see on the field though? Anarumo told the Bengals team website he likes to keep things simple. It allows his players to play fast and diagnose what’s in front of them. He knows the modern NFL favors offensive players, which puts defenses in reactionary mode. Anarumo says his scheme will also feature multiple formations. They will likely be fairly vanilla given his philosophy of keeping it simple. He also plans to take advantage of his current cornerback group’s ability to play press man coverage. He’s currently proving that by emphasizing press during the team’s recent practices.
Furthermore, Anarumo describes his playbook as a mix of what Coyle and current Minnesota Vikings head coach Zimmer employs. Coyle’s scheme leans on versatility with a 4-3 front. His stint in Miami also shows a tendency to put players out of position, to the point of player’s vocal frustration. Zimmer is known for his hyper-aggressive, double-A gap blitz scheme. It’s a scheme that worked well in Cincinnati before. If history is any indicator, Anarumo would be wise to rely on Zimmer-based schemes more than Coyle’s.
Anarumo has promising talent on hand to work with
Fortunately, Anarumo likes what he has with his current roster. He says he’s giving Bengals players a clean slate. This is after a 2018 debacle where the Bengals finished last in yards allowed and 30th in scoring defense. That’s probably music to the ears of an injury-riddled defense that had to switch coordinators (from Teryl Austin to head coach Marvin Lewis).
There’s plenty of talent for Anarumo to weaponize too. The defensive line features long-time Bengals, Geno Atkins and Dunlap. The group also owns promising young edge rushers in Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson. Considering Zimmer’s continued success with pass rushers in his schemes, Anarumo has excellent potential there. The defensive back group is loaded as well. Three former first-rounders lead the way in Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard, and William Jackson as well as budding safety Jessie Bates.
The Cincinnati Bengals appear to have a player-friendly coach with versatile schemes that aren’t complex to the point that it slows players down. He hasn’t had tremendous success as a positional coach or as interim defensive coordinator, though his longevity in the coaching business says something. As the Bengals attempt to transform who they are on offense, perhaps the timing is also just right for Anarumo to take a talented yet downtrodden Bengals defense to the next level.