Roster Projections is a series that’ll look to break down and discuss each of the Cincinnati Bengals’ position groups, then project how they’ll look at the end of the 2018 offseason. In this series, we’ll look at players’ 2017 seasons, analyze them as they currently are, and predict how they’ll spend 2018 with the Bengals. The seventh edition of this series will cover the Bengals’ defensive tackles.
Practice Squad: Andrew Brown
Injured Reserve: Chris Okoye
The Bengals’ edge rushers drew more hype this preseason, but it’s this tackle group that really solidifies the defensive line. Geno Atkins – among the best interior defenders in the NFL – headlines the unit (as he has for years). Combined with the young talent behind him, he makes the Bengals’ interior defensive line an intriguing unit.
Atkins – second only to the Rams’ Aaron Donald as an every-down interior defender – is entering his ninth NFL season. He’s avoided his due respect by playing in the small market of Cincinnati on teams that haven’t won playoff games. Since entering the league in 2010, Atkins has logged a total of 61.0 sacks (tied for 16th among active players). He’s logged at least 9.0 sacks in four of his seasons, including each of the past three. With an out-of-this-world first step, excellent use of leverage, and a motor that is always running hot, Atkins shows no signs of slowing down in 2018.
Andrew Billings – the man lining up next to Atkins – is set up for a breakout season. The Bengals drafted Billings in 2016 with the expectation that he’d need time to develop, not that he’d start immediately. After suffering a meniscus tear in his rookie season, Billings stepped into the lineup in 2017 and played as expected. His run defense was solid – he didn’t move well himself, but opposing offenses couldn’t move him either. His marked improvement as a pass rusher (if the preseason is anything to go off of) is why he might have a strong season inbound. Billings was an absolute wrecking ball in the preseason – while he’ll probably never fill the stat sheet, look for him to be a three-down impact player as a nose tackle.
Ryan Glasgow, a 2017 fourth-round pick, seems to be the primary backup. As a rookie, Glasgow played that same role behind Atkins and performed admirably. He’s not a spectacular player – his run defense is fine, and he isn’t a dynamic pass rusher. Glasgow’s only real similarity to Atkins is in his high motor, which is enough for the occasional splash play. More importantly, it makes him consistent in his support role, which is all the Bengals require of him.
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Two players were battling for the fourth defensive tackle spot on the active roster: Josh Tupuo and Andrew Brown. Tupou was an undrafted 2017 free agent that bounced between the practice squad and 53-man roster all season. At 6’3″ and 345 pounds, Tupou fits the backup nose tackle role more than anything else. Brown, a 2018 fifth-round pick, has signed to the practice squad. Him making his way to the active roster at some point this season shouldn’t surprise anyone, though.