The Cincinnati Bengals have some undeniable talent on both sides of the ball but have some work to do across the defense in 2020 in order to make an improvement from last season’s 2-14 overall record, including their edge rushers. There are young faces to be excited about, veterans who could further solidify their dominance and players poised for a breakout season who could emerge into something substantial this year.
However, with question marks in other areas of their defense, getting pressure on the quarterback could be a crucial element for the Bengals to have success in 2020. Can the Bengals’ edge rushers make an impact on a tough division in 2020? Their top three names on the depth chart should be set in stone, but which edge rushers can make the back end of the Bengals roster in 2020?
Two stand-out names atop the depth chart
Considered one of the Bengals’ most underrated players, Dunlap seems to only be getting better progressively and that’s reflected by the numbers. Dunlap has registered at least 7.5 sacks and 20 QB hits in each of his last seven seasons.
Last season, the veteran registered 63 tackles, 39 solo, nine sacks, two forced fumbles and eight passes defensed. He also placed in the top 25 in the league when it came to pressures, per Pro Football Reference. However, perhaps the most impressive number last season was his 3.1% missed tackle rate, which was among the best at the position.
Entering his third year in Cincinnati, Hubbard is one of a selection of Bengals who could be in for a headline-making year in 2020. 2019 saw him establish himself as a starter, starting 15 games and playing 80% of the snaps. In those snaps, he recorded 76 tackles, 46 solo, 8.5 sacks, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.
With just 19 pressures, an increase of just six from his rookie season, despite seeing a 68% increase in snaps, the Bengals will be hoping he can get pressure on the QB more consistently in 2020. One major positive was that after missing more than 13% of his tackle attempts in 2018, he reduced that to 6.2% last season.
A primary backup with plenty to prove in 2020
Entering the final season of his rookie contract, after being selected by the Bengals in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Lawson has a wealth of ability to become a key defensive player but has been set back by injuries in the past.
Last season, while dealing with a hamstring problem, Lawson posted 23 tackles, 17 solo, and five sacks over 12 games, and just 43% of the team snaps. In a contract year, Lawson has a chance to come into his own within Cincinnati’s 3-4 defense. He should be the primary backup to Dunlap and Hubbard in 2020.
Minor playing time remains up for grabs
Brown saw a solid amount of playing time defensively in 2019, his first active season in the league after being drafted in 2018. He saw the fourth-most defensive snaps at the position last season, behind only Dunlap, Hubbard, and Lawson, registering 14 tackles and 10 solo on defense. In 2019, he also saw some time on special teams. Consider Brown to be more of a rotational backup if the Bengals keep him on.
Kareem presents an intriguing option, but the fifth-rounder is still very much an unknown. Over three years at Notre Dame, Kareem registered 108 tackles, 56 solo, 13 sacks, eight passes defensed, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one touchdown.
He was a captain for the Fighting Irish last year, tieing for the team lead with 5.5 sacks in 2019. Look for Kareem to see some playing time on the edge this season.
Futrell is one of a number of interesting prospects the Bengals signed after the draft, but the rookie out of East Carolina faces an uphill battle trying to make it on the roster. However, he certainly shouldn’t be written off.
His scheme versatility gives the Bengals a lot to look forward to, and he was also the most productive member of his defense at the college level. Over four college seasons, Futrell posted 117 tackles, 65 solo, 14 sacks, six passes defensed three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.