Special teams looking to repeat top-tier finish

Brandon Tate

INDIANAPOLIS — Riding three top 10 finishes in four of the major categories during a season they played a major factor in the playoff berth, the Bengals special teams finished 12th in the annual Dallas Morning News survey.

Compiled by Rick "Goose" Goosselin, the standings rank the clubs in 22 kicking-game categories and are assigned points according to their standing with one the best and 32 the worst. The NFC runnerup 49ers edged the Dolphins, 225.5-230.5, for the crown and the Bengals logged 340.

"To hold opponents to the best drive start in the league is something to be proud of," special teams coach Darrin Simmons said Friday here at the NFL scouting combine of that 20.3-yard line number. "We didn't have a lot of turnover from the year before and that's always important. We've got a corps of guys that have played and have some speed and we haven't had that for a while."

And it looks like Simmons will be able to keep a large part of the corps together, although he'd like to have the services again of safety Gibril Wilson (10 tackles) and outside linebacker Brandon Johnson.

The Bengals finished in the top 10 in kick cover, punt cover and punt returns in the wake of changing out Quan Cosby for Brandon Tate at returner on the eve of last season. Tate, heading into the last year of his deal, is back. Six of the seven top special teams tacklers are back or are restricted free agents including the top three tacklers: safety Jeromy Miles, running back Cedric Peerman, and linebacker Dan Skuta.

"A big thing we have to work on is getting more turnovers," Simmons said.

The Bengals were one of 13 teams that didn't get a turnover on special teams.

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