Wallace Gilberry: Bengals' D-line needs to produce this season

CINCINNATI -- Wallace Gilberry has heard much of what has been said about his defensive line outside of Paul Brown Stadium this offseason.

He's understands how much attention the Cincinnati Bengals' league-low 20 sacks in 2014 has received.

But to the veteran defensive end, none of it matters.

The Bengals can talk among themselves about their line issues from a year ago, and they can let others continue doing the same. In Gilberry's mind, though, the chatter accomplishes nothing. To him, the Bengals' line simply has to produce this season.

"Ain't nothing much to talk about," Gilberry said. "We know what we need to do and what we have to get done."

Specifically, they need to bring down the quarterback.

Although Pro Football Focus graded the Bengals as having the league's worst pass rush last season, Bengals linemen contend they were actually getting good push overall. The problem was they just had difficulty finishing plays with the quarterback on the ground.

One of the more memorable plays against the Bengals' defense last season was one in which that exact scenario played out.

Even after two defensive linemen had broken past the Colts' offensive line and started wrapping up quarterback Andrew Luck in the third quarter of the playoff game in Indianapolis, Luck was able to complete a 36-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief that widened the Colts' cushion. Luck was on his way to the ground as he fired a laser to Moncrief. Had the attempted tacklers gotten there a split-second sooner, he might not have been able to throw the ball at all.

"You can only control what you can control and that's your effort and attitude," Gilberry said. "That was there. The sacks just weren't."

Cincinnati's line should benefit this season from the return of Michael Johnson. The former Bengals draft pick returned last month after spending a year with Tampa Bay. His four sacks there were an indication he wasn't as productive as the Buccaneers would have liked. The Bengals hope that with him setting the right edge, they can recreate rotations that will keep linemen fresh, and allow Gilberry to get back to his patented nickel-down rush from the line's interior.

Long a rotational player, Gilberry practically got starter's snaps last season when he was thrust into a slightly larger role both coming off the edge and rushing occasionally from the interior. Injuries and the difficulty of replacing Johnson -- who signed away from Cincinnati last offseason -- led to Gilberry playing 461 snaps more than he averaged through his first six seasons. After setting a career-high with 7.5 sacks in 2013, a harder-worked Gilberry had just 1.5 last season.

"It's just a matter of guys being comfortable, and the coaches being comfortable playing the guys that we've got on the sideline," Gilberry said about the new anticipated rotational tweaks. "That's what it comes down to: guys stepping up doing their job consistently."