Too Much Is Never Enough When It Comes to DTs for Cincinnati Bengals’ Lou Anarumo

The Cincinnati Bengals are in desperate need of more defensive tackles who can both push the pocket and stop the run games in the AFC North.

INDIANAPOLIS — When Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo sits down to watch tape on a free agent defensive tackle — something he has done a lot the last few weeks with that position representing the team’s biggest need — the first thing he looks at is the player’s schedule.

If the defensive tackle’s team faced the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, or Pittsburgh Steelers, Anarumo goes to those games first.

Cincinnati Bengals Have a Template for DT Targets in Draft, Free Agency

“I hope and pray that they played against our division,” he said during a break at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “Because when they’re playing those groups of teams, it’s a little bit different than a lot of other teams in our league where these guys are roaring off the ball, double-teaming big people, and trying to knock you into next week.

“If you can’t anchor in there and you’re going to get moved and you’re going to try to swim around blocks, that creates different issues for us on defense,” Anarumo continued. “Yeah, it’s a little bit different in the AFC North.”

DJ Reader is a free agent, B.J. Hill is going into the final year of his contract, and 2022 third-round pick Zach Carter might be fighting just to make the 53-man roster at the position that serves as the team’s most glaring need.

There is a chance the market for Reader could crater, given the quad tear he suffered in December and the long road to recovery that injury often mandates. Perhaps he’s still available as training camp approaches and the Bengals could bring him back on a one-year deal full of incentives.

They would love that, but they can’t count on it.

There’s a good chance that both the highest-paid free agent they sign this month and their first draft pick next month will be defensive tackles.

“We want to build the line of scrimmages. (Defensive tackle) is a part of the line of scrimmage,” director of player personnel Duke Tobin said. “Maybe the most important part of the line of scrimmages is being able to hold up against the run. We play in a physical division. Teams are going to run the ball at us.

“We need guys in there that can play the run, and we need somebody that can affect the passer. It is a position we are looking at, it’s a position of need, it’s always a position of need. I don’t know that I would ever stand up here and say d-line is not a position of need and offensive line is not a position of need. They are always going to be a position of need. It’s just a matter of being the right guy at the right time.”

Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings has Illinois’ Johnny Newton atop his defensive tackle rankings, with Texas’ Byron Murphy II second. Will both, one, or neither be available when the Bengals pick at 18?

There also are a lot of defensive tackles available in free agency, spanning all price plans.

Given the combination of what the Bengals have and what they need, you can’t rule out the possibility of a free agent signing and two draft picks on the interior of the defensive line.

KEEP READING: Top 100 NFL Free Agents

“You look at the teams that go far,” Anarumo said. “Obviously, great quarterbacks, but dominant defensive lines are kind of a theme when we go forward. (During the 2021 Super Bowl run) it was great to have Larry (Ogunjobi) and that rotation of three. (Josh Tupou) would come in, and he was the fourth and rotate with those guys. The more the merrier.”

The last seven premium draft picks (Rounds 1-3) the Bengals have made all have been on the defensive side of the ball. Look for that trend to continue next month.

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