After putting his players on notice by hinting at changes in personnel and playing time after the bye, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said he saw a noticeable difference when the team returned from the off week.
“We had one of our best practices of the year today,” Guenther said Tuesday, even though the temperature was in the 50s and a light rain fell throughout.
“I think guys got the message,” Guenther added. “We’ve got a lot of pros in there, and hopefully they’ll respond, because they’re going to get everything I’ve got for eight weeks.”
One of the first changes was bringing back defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry, who played for the Bengals from 2012-15 before signing with Detroit in the offseason.
Even though he hasn’t played since the Lions placed him on injured reserve on Oct. 4 and waived him Oct. 11, Guenther said he expects Gilberry to see action Monday night in New York against the Giants.
“He’s a guy that came in and after a day kind of picked up the Xs and Os part of where he left off,” Guenther said. “He’s in really good shape, so we had him in practice. I’m hoping he can help us out Monday night.”
Gilberry most likely will see a limited number of snaps as an inside nickel pass rusher, the role he excelled in during the 2012-13 seasons, when he had 14 of the 17.5 sacks he recorded with the Bengals.
When he moved to starting defensive end in 2014 to replace Michael Johnson, his production dropped (1.5 sacks) as his snaps increased.
Making Gilberry active would mean the Bengals will have to sit someone who has been playing, which is something Guenther warned the players about in their exit meetings before leaving for the bye.
“It’s gong to be a hard decision to make,” Guenther said. “Whatever direction we think helps us win on Monday and whoever we think helps us to win the next Sunday and so on and so forth. It’s a good problem to have.”
Starting Safety George Iloka, who isn’t likely to see a reduction in playing time, said he supports Guenther’s assertion that changes are on the way.
“They always say the definition of a crazy man is someone who does the same thing on and on and expects to get different results,” Iloka said. “So of course they have to switch things up, whether it’s personnel, play calling, plays, packages, whatever it may be. They’re going to try to tweak it to get different results as they should because we haven’t as a collective whole gotten it done.”
A year removed from setting a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a 16-game season, the Bengals rank 19th in points allowed, 21st in pass defense, 23rd in run defense and 25th in total defense.
“We just have to get back to doing stuff the way we do it, the way I’m used to seeing it all the time,” Guenther said. “It’s not just going to show up on Sundays. We’ve got to do it throughout the week. We’ve got to be in good tackling position, we’ve got to be staying on top of coverage, being good communicators in the coverage and stopping the run and rushing the passer. And I think we can do it with whatever guys we have out there.”