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.