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Across-the-board success suggests Bengals' defense for real

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Posted Oct. 07, 2011 @ 5:50 p.m. ET
By Mike Wilkening

Two seasons ago, the Bengals' defense helped lead the club to a division title. It's a little early to suggest Cincinnati is a serious AFC North title contender just yet, but it's not premature to suggest the Bengals' defense has the ability to be formidable. The Bengals allowed fewer yards than any other team in the first four games of the season, excelling at stuffing the run, limiting big plays in the passing game and getting stops on third downs. The Bengals, who have finished no worse than 15th in yards allowed per game in any of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's four seasons in Cincinnati, are getting solid contributions from every position group. The defense has meshed quickly, even with at least one new full-time starter at each position group stepping into the lineup this season, which is certainly a credit to Zimmer, we're told. One evaluator who has watched the Bengals came away impressed with their defensive line, as well as the defense's overall aggressiveness and soundness. Of the new additions, former Raiders WLB Thomas Howard especially has stood out. "I've never been around a finer athlete at linebacker than what he is," head coach Marvin Lewis said of Howard. "He is a good football player and he is learning to fit in the spots. It is fun to watch him."

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