Cincinnati Bengals Defense Could Hinge on Larry Ogunjobi

While he wasn’t a major free agent investment, the Cincinnati Bengals defense needed someone like Larry Ogunjobi. The young defensive tackle still has room for development and presents an enticing set of skills. However, he has yet to prove he’s amongst the higher-tier players at his position. Regardless of his accomplishments so far, the Bengals need Ogunjobi to be a key contributor this season in Cincinnati.

Larry Ogunjobi Has a Major Role on the Cincinnati Bengals Defense 

The Cincinnati Bengals defense looks quite a bit different from even the start of last season. Over the past two years, the team is continuing to make a push to create a new face for their ball-stopping group. Most fans think about big-ticket additions like DJ Reader, Trae Waynes, Trey Hendrickson, and Vonn Bell. However, their one-year, $5 million investment in defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi might be more important. At least in regards to their 2021 season, Ogunjobi is slotted to be their three-technique, an area of massive struggle in 2020.

Certainly, they’ll rely on others like Sam Hubbard and Cameron Sample for relief. Regardless, there’s a lot riding on Ogunjobi to make an impact in that role.

Since the start of the 2019 season, no defense has given up more rushing yards than the Cincinnati Bengals. Further, the Bengals finished dead-last in the NFL last season with just 17 sacks as a team. Now, they’re hoping free agent and draft investments make for a major awakening for a stalled defensive line. Alone, Ogunjobi isn’t going to fix their problems. In 2020 with the Cleveland Browns, he posted four sacks and earned a 55.2 run-stop grade from Pro Football Focus.

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Clearly, those numbers are far from earth-shattering and won’t move the needle for frustrated Bengals fans. On the other hand, there’s reason to believe that Ogunjobi’s role in the Bengals defense will take him to much greater heights. 

Can Larry Ogunjobi Become a Key Contributor in the Cincinnati and Make Their Pass Rush Excel?

Heading into 2021, Ogunjobi will play a defined role in this Cincinnati Bengals defense. Finally, the team has a solid-to-good replacement for Geno Atkins in the 3T role. While Atkins is one of the best defensive tackles of his generation, his play sharply declined in recent seasons. Clearly, no one can ask Ogunjobi to come to Cincinnati and be Atkins. Instead, they need their new addition to simply be a more complimentary pocket pusher for their floundering pass rush. Ogunjobi is under some major pressure to revitalize the pass rush in Cincinnati.

Still young, the 27-year-old defensive tackle has yet to reach his ceiling. With Reader and rookie Tyler Shelvin playing more of the run-stuffing defensive tackle role, it’s Ogunjobi who’s going to be tasked with checking passers. 

Interestingly, Ogunjobi was an important complement to one of the league’s best pass rushers with the Browns. Ogunjobi pushed the pocket as the 3T for 9-of-13 sacks from Myles Garrett last season. For Cincinnati, whose futile pass rush resulted in the addition of four new defensive ends this off-season, that’s huge news.

With Hendrickson coming off of a 13.5 sack season with the New Orleans Saints, that has to sound like music. After all, many of Hendrickson’s sacks came with pressure assist from veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. It should also be great news for Hubbard, who posted a career-low 2 sacks in 2020. After piling up 6 as a rookie and 8.5 in his second season, Hubbard needs help from Ogunjobi. Too often last season, the team got some pressure from the edge, but not enough help up the middle. Rushing the passer is a complimentary game from the inside out and they’ll need Ogunjobi to be that player. 

The Bengals Defense Seems Much Better Off if Ogunjobi Ascends During the 2021 Season

Given Cincinnati’s history of identifying defensive line talent in young players, ascension for Ogunjobi is a solid bet. In Cleveland, he was asked to play a bigger role as a run stuffer and less as a pass-rushing factor. Now, he’s going to be asked to do some role reversal, which is probably ideal for the player. Frequently, the tape reveals Ogunjobi’s bag of tricks as a pass rusher to be wildly impressive. In 2021, the Bengals just need him to deliver those tricks with more consistency.

Dating back to his pre-draft scouting reports, Ogunjobi’s strong suit is clearly his potential as a pass rusher.  He’ll have the chance to chase his ceiling in that role in Cincinnati. 

Further, the team needs a player like Ogunjobi in their future plans. A strong season with the Bengals could give the defensive tackle a chance to ink a hefty new contract in Cincinnati. While that’ll take time to become the case, his importance to this team has relevance now. Seemingly, they won’t pursue other free-agent options ahead of the season. Instead, they’re giving Ogunjobi a chance to sign.

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