It has been a disappointing season for the Bengals' defense, which has not played to the high standard set in 2009, when it finished in the top seven in total defense, pass defense and rushing yards allowed. Entering Week Nine, the Bengals ranked in the bottom half of the league in each of those categories, signs of a defense falling short in multiple areas.
In a recent interview with PFW, Bengals FS Chris Crocker attributed some of the defense's problems to "little things" done not up to par, with tackling and an inability to get stops in 3rd-and-short situations two examples cited by him.
The 5-11, 202-pound Crocker, who has started all seven games this season, said of the defensive backfield: "I would say, the secondary, and I'm just comparing it to last year, we don't feel like we've played as good as we played last year. We've given up more plays than we gave up last year."
Crocker, 30, is in his third season with the Bengals, whom he joined in October 2008 after being released by Miami. This is his second stint in a Mike Zimmer-coached defense, having played for Zimmer in Atlanta.
"The big thing about Zim is he's really into playing toward teams' tendencies," said Crocker, who has notched 40 tackles this season. "You study teams throughout weeks and he just lets you play to their tendencies and be aggressive and just let it hang loose and play. He's just let me be a player and not worry about making mistakes, just going out there and making plays, and play to what I see on film and react to everything else."
Off the field, Crocker is involved in the Cincinnati community, volunteering for Visions Community Services, a nonprofit organization that assists impoverished young parents and children.
"Just being around sometimes just helps, and lets these mothers know that they are appreciated, because it's tough," Crocker said.
On the field, Crocker believes some timely play from the defense could be just the spark the team needs as it attempts to rally from a poor start.
"I think for us it's going to come (down) to us making a big play at the end of a ballgame for us to really turn around our season, for us to get to back to where we were last season," he said. "I think it's going to take us making a big play, us winning the game on defense. If I could say anything, that would probably be the biggest thing to turn around our season."