Cincin­nati Ben­gals

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - AFC NORTH -

Rookie DE Jor­dan Wil­lis recorded a sack in last week­end’s pre­sea­son game vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, and Wil­lis is play­ing his way into the team’s reg­u­larsea­son ro­ta­tion.

The Ben­gals will be a younger, faster de­fense across the board this sea­son, and they drafted Wil­lis and Carl Law­son after the team’s sack pro­duc­tion slipped sig­nif­i­cantly from 2015. Wil­lis is listed as a sec­ond-team de­fen­sive end, while Law­son is listed as an out­side line­backer. Nick Vigil, the new start­ing strong­side line­backer, also has pass-rush abil­ity.

DT Geno Atkins is one of the league’s best in­te­rior pass rush­ers and a con­sis­tent dis­rup­tive force. The Ben­gals fo­cused on up­grad­ing the tal­ent around Atkins and vet­eran DE Car­los Dun­lap, a two-time Pro Bowler who has had at least eight sacks in three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons. In ad­di­tion to Wil­lis and Law­son, the Ben­gals are hop­ing for more from fourthyear DE Will Clarke and also brought back vet­eran DE Wal-lace Gil­berry.

Rookie watch: The Ben­gals con­tinue to list rookie RB Joe

Mixon as a backup. Part of lim­it­ing his op­por­tu­ni­ties is keep­ing the 228-pounder fresh and keep­ing op­po­nents guess­ing as to how he’ll be used when the reg­u­lar sea­son be­gins.

Note­wor­thy: S Shawn Wil­liams suf­fered what’s feared to be a dis­lo­cated el­bow last week- end and will miss sig­nif­i­cant time. Sec­ond-year man Der­ron Smith likely will move into the start­ing lineup in Wil­liams’ ab­sence. ... WR-KR Alex Erick­son won the kick-re­turn job as an un­drafted rookie last sea­son, and he’s hold­ing on to that job and com­pet­ing for snaps in the re­ceiver ro­ta­tion this sum­mer. ... The Ben­gals ac­ti­vated RB Cedric Peer­man, a for­mer Pro Bowl spe­cial-teams player, from the phys­i­cally un­able to per­form list last week.

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