While a revamped offense has been a major talking point of the offseason for the Cincinnati Bengals, the defense has a new coordinator in Teryl Austin.
Austin isn’t expected to change the scheme much, but the draft and free agency offer some intriguing new personnel options even though nearly everyone who played significant snaps last season is still on the roster.
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(Linebacker Kevin Minter and cornerback Adam Jones are notable exceptions after making nine starts apiece, but neither had banner seasons in Cincinnati.)
Among the newcomers is linebacker Preston Brown, a fifth-year veteran from Cincinnati who spent the past four seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
How he fits into the picture should be interesting to see since veterans Vontaze Burfict and Vinny Rey are back along with youngsters Nick Vigil and Jordan Evans.
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Early on, there is a definite need with Burfict suspended for the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but after that there figures to be a lot of competition for playing time if everyone remains healthy.
Brown is expected to be a solid locker room presence and to add leadership regardless.
“He’s great,” Austin said Tuesday after the Bengals finished another day of OTAs. “Preston is a real pro. I remember when we signed him I got a call from Doug Whaley who drafted him up there and he said, ‘He is a man’s man, a great guy, and you’re gonna love him.’ And I do.
“You’ve got a veteran guy who had 100-plus tackles the last two or three years. He’s a really solid player who doesn’t miss games, practices, prepares. He’s everything you want in a pro.”
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The Queen City native, who graduated from Northwest High School before playing his college ball at Louisville, said getting used to practicing outside all the time during a balmy May has been an adjustment, but he is enjoying the process so far.
“It’s been fun learning from the veterans like Vinny and Vontaze and the young guys like Jordan and Nick Vigil, just finding my way, trying to make it through these practices, trying to pick it up as fast as possible,” Brown said.
He hopes that sets him up for a successful training camp beginning in July.
“Just learning the defense so when you get to camp, you can go out there and have fun and play fast,” Brown said. “You don’t want to be a little slow. That’s when guys pass you up, so you’ve got to learn the defense now, go out there and perform and be ready for camp.
“It’s fun coming in and learning from a lot of great linebackers, great D-linemen up front, great safeties. They’ve got a lot of great players all around and we’ve just got to find a way to bring it together and reach that next level so we can be a top defense in this league.”
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As for what happens to some of Jones’ snaps, fifth-round pick Darius Phillips has turned some heads during the offseason program.
“He’s done a good job, and he’s got a knack for getting around the ball,” Austin said of Phillips. “We have to coach him up on the finer details, and he’s got to get in his book to learn the finer details of the defense, but I think with all those young guys, all the guys we’ve got out here, they’ve done a good job of applying themselves and learning the defense.”
Phillips, who was also a standout return man at Western Michigan, joins a group that returns starters Dre Kirkpatrick and William Jackson III on the outside while Darqueze Dennard, who made six starts last season, could be ticketed for the nickel spot.
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