Bengals D-line sees ‘huge opportunity’ to impact game vs. Lions

CINCINNATI -- Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has so far validated the team’s decision to select him No. 5 overall in the first round of the NFL Draft instead of going with arguably the best offensive tackle on the board.

On Sunday, when the Bengals play at Detroit, they could face the player many outsiders wanted them to take in former Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell. Sewell has been up and down in his first five starts, playing left tackle while Butler High School and Ohio State product Taylor Decker has been out because finger surgery on Sept. 10.

Decker, who opened the season on injured reserve, just resumed practice this week, but Lions coach Dan Campbell told Detroit media that if he is able to play this week, Sewell likely would be moving to right tackle.

“He’s had a tough task to come in and start as a rookie left tackle,” Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “That’s a tough job with the injury to Taylor. I don’t know where they end up lining up this week, but I just see a player that plays extremely hard, and he fights every snap. He’s had some rookie mistakes, but he comes back the next snap trying to impose his will on his opponent so he’s a good player. He’s gonna be a great player for a long time. Very athletic, very big, he’s got great hands, great feet. We can tell why he was drafted so high.”

The Bengals defensive line already is eager to get after Lions quarterback Jared Goff, who tends to hold onto the ball too long at times. Throw in a rookie tackle who’s struggled at times, and Cincinnati could feast on opportunities for sacks or at least to impact Goff.

Goff has been sacked 14 times in five games. Cincinnati’s defense has 13 sacks after recording just 17 all last year.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” Hubbard said Thursday. “Us as a D-line, we had our pass rush meeting today. We’ve really got an opportunity here to make an impact on this game. He holds onto the ball, scrambling to throw, trying to get guys open and we’ve just got to be relentless in our rush, good rush lanes, and we’ll get to him, and that’s gonna be a big factor in this game.”

What the Bengals’ defensive line does will be important, especially as the secondary faces some concerns with Trae Waynes (hamstring) going on injured reserve and rotation among the back end seeming to impact the cohesiveness of the unit at times.

Cincinnati had three new cornerbacks coming into the season and Waynes had just come back from injury before getting shut down again.

“I think there’s some type of being tired a little bit,” Bates said when asked if the rotation impacts communication among the defensive backs. “We’re hitting the grind of the season where really good teams get really good at what they do. Some of the teams not doing too well are lacking in communication. I think this week we kind of slipped a little bit on that, as a DB group. It’s good that we’re aware of that and be able to focus a little bit more on that like we have throughout the whole season. So, this is the part of the season where it’s going to start being a grind. Guys are going to walk into the building after games, even on Wednesdays, and feel a little sore but it’s the mental part of the game we have to hone in on. To get where we want to be, we have to focus in on the details.”

This week, the middle of the defense could be a bigger concern, though, especially if the defensive line is doing it’s job to force Goff into quicker throws in short chunks. Lions running back Jamaal Williams (hip) did not practice Thursday, according to the Detroit Free Press, after being limited on Wednesday, but running back D’Andre Swift (groin) is expected to play after being limited Wednesday and has been a threat in both the running and passing games.

Goff’s top targets have been Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson, and Cincinnati’s defense has struggled against those types of players in the past when it comes to pass coverage.

Bates believes those issues are behind the Bengals, though. He’s looking forward to the challenge of facing a player like Hockenson, who many consider a premier tight end in just his second season in the league.

“The way this league works, it’s a copycat league,” Bates said. “They all do the same kind of concepts out of different personnel (groups) and stuff like that. With 88 (Hockenson) being the main guy, I’m sure they’re going to run some concepts to get him open. I think that’s where our defense is really good, where they’re trying to hide him, where they’re trying to cut down splits with the receivers with some drag routes to try and get him open. It’s something we’re going to be aware of but nothing really specific that you can really do with the tight end, with him being a blocker and a receiving type of tight end. Looking forward to that challenge.”


Bengals at Lions, 1 p.m., Fox, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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