Leon Hall likes it just fine at cornerback, thank you.
Nose tackle Domata Peko (2006) and cornerback Leon Hall (2007) are the Bengals most senior defenders and have seen more good times than bad. Both have been to the playoffs five times with all kinds of offenses, ranging from Carson Palmer-Chad Johnson, A.J. Green-Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill-Andy Dalton.
But they feel like they may have something even more here.
"I think, even my first half of my career here, I think we had a lot of talent," Hall said on his ninth reporting day. "We had a good locker room. But the second half of my career we've obviously got good players, we've got good chemistry, I think the locker room is fine. Now, there's something a little different I'm not sure what it is. I just feels better, if that makes sense. I know we have a lot of good players like we have before, but I think we've got a lot more depth than we've had before. Injuries happen to every team throughout the year so having depth is kind of crucial."
Peko thinks the re-signing of right end Michael Johnson and the signing of Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk has given the defense a boost back to their dominant days of 2012 and 2013.
" In earlier years it seemed like we had almost every little piece," Peko said. "But now after going four years to the playoffs and one and done, we have all the pieces. They did a great job upstairs, especially adding Mike and A.J. Hawk. They're veteran players that know what to do. That's the thing that you need. Some young guys and also veterans. I think we have a great mix of older guys and younger guys and that can get us over that hump."
Hall echoes the moves after getting a look at both of them in the spring.
"We already know what Mike can bring to the table," Hall said. "They've just been in the league for a while. (Hawk) has been a productive player for a long time, so any time you get a guy like that who comes in and can just flat-out play football and he's smart, too, that's beneficial."
Peko is pumped about the encouraging spring offered by three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins. He also has seen the rehab video of Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
"I have a great feeling about our defense getting back to it," Peko said of a season where they fell from No. 3 to 22 in the rankings. "Last year we made the playoffs, but our defense was struggling. We were missing a lot of guys. Now that we've got Michael back and Geno had a heck of an OTAs, when those two guys are playing their best it makes our whole defensive line better.
"With everyone back healthy, it's a new team," Peko said. "When all the guys are healthy on defense, we'll be one of the best units out there."
Asked if the Bengals have some juice, Hall didn't hesitate.
"We've definitely got a lot of juice," he said.
Nose tackle Domata Peko (94) loves the Michael Johnson-Geno Atkins reunion.
NO SAFETY NET: Hall indicated that all this talk about him playing safety in the nickel during the spring is a bit overdone. He says he's not looking to make that his next career move and, besides, it's nothing he hasn't done before.
"Honestly, that's nothing really new. For whatever reason, it's kind of come up again," said Hall, who did a lot of things in the nickel package when he was healthy in Mike Zimmer's scheme. "I did that with Zim. I'm still at the nickel position, it's just a changeup basically. We did that here with Zim a couple of years, so it was nothing new."
Hall says it is something that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther can have some fun with as he challenges quarterbacks.
"It's just some little thing that may help -- or may be pointless -- but we think that it may help as far as offenses and how they see our defense on film, how the quarterback may view our defense as he's under center," Hall said. "Maybe I'm in a certain place, if there's three linebackers or three corners in the game, or two linebackers and three safeties in the game -- sometimes it can be confusing, which would be nice. Slows them down a little bit."
Hall turns 31 in December and then turns into a free agent in March, but at the moment he says he's not looking to turn into a safety.
"Not right now. I'm just focused on right now and this year, and I'm going to go from there. I can't really predict years down the line, so it's hard to say," Hall said. "I don't want to do what Reggie (Nelson) does every play, I can tell you that much. I don't want to be part of that."
Cincinnati Bengals kick off 2015 Training Camp with conditioning tests 07/30/2015
RE-MADE: In the weeks leading up to camp, there had been a buzz about how 10-year left tackle Andrew Whitworth had re-made his body and it's true. He's still Big Whit at 6-7, but he reportedly came in at an amazing 307 pounds. This from a guy who weighed in during April at 341 pounds and left for the June-July break at 318 pounds. Here's a guy who was drafted at 334 pounds in 2006, which is about what he was when he went to the Pro Bowl in 2012.
Whitworth, who figures it's the lightest he's been since his freshman year at LSU, says he did it strictly by eating a much more regimented diet. And working out every day in the Louisiana heat probably didn't hurt.
He says he did it so he could play longer, past his 34th birthday that he reaches this Dec. 12. After looking at other tackles and seeing when they retired, Whitworth thought it was the best move for his longevity.
HILL TOP: Running back Jeremy Hill also looks a little different. He's still 235 pounds, but a lot more of it is sculpted, particularly around the shoulders.
"Last year we didn't really work on the upper body stuff for me," Hill said. "I think that's going to help me carrying the football with my stiff arms, getting into traffic, breaking tackles, all those things. That's something I worked on this year is my upper body strength. I've always had lower body strength."
The guy who was the NFL's leading rusher from Week 9 is used to doing a lot of leg work. Even before he went upstairs to work, he finished fourth among NFL running backs as a rookie averaging 2.8 yards after contact per carry, according to profootballfocus.com
"I was squatting like 650 in college. I really didn't worry about that," Hill said. "The upper body will help me in the long run being able to stiff arm guys, being able to break tacklers and do more of those things this year. Bench, curls, the generic stuff."