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The Bengals' Recent Moves Have Caught the Attention of the Locker Room

The Bengals' Recent Moves Have Caught the Attention of the Locker Room

CINCINNATI — The Bengals acquired former first-round pick Takk McKinley on Wednesday. 

They're hoping the 25-year-old can help replace Carlos Dunlap in the trenches. McKinley will wear No. 96, which is the same number Dunlap wore for more than a decade before Cincinnati traded the two-time Pro Bowler to Seattle. 

McKinley appeared in 49 regular season contests for Atlanta, making 25 starts. He has 79 career tackles (22 for loss) 17.5 sacks and 45 quarterback hits. The Falcons released him on Tuesday. 

The Browns, Raiders and 49ers also tried to claim McKinley, but the Bengals had waiver priority over those teams. 

"It just shows that we’re trying to win," rookie defensive end Khalid Kareem said on Thursday. "He brings a lot of intensity, you know from what I’ve seen in the past. He has a pretty good pass rush game and it’s always good to have another pass rusher in the D-line room just to breed more competition, breed excellence from everyone."

Adding McKinley is the latest example of the Bengals changing their ways. 

For years this organization sat on its' hands in free agency. That changed in March when they signed DJ Reader, Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell and others. 

They've dealt with significant injuries, specifically on defense, but that hasn't kept them from being aggressive. They signed veteran defensive tackle Mike Daniels during training camp after suffering multiple injuries at that spot. 

They scooped up Quinton Spain two weeks ago after he was released by the Bills. Adding the 29-year-old paid off right away. He played 62 snaps (85%) on offense in Cincinnati's 31-20 win over Tennessee.

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Adding McKinley is the latest example of a change in philosophy. Adding him isn't going to make or break the Bengals' defense, but they probably would've passed on McKinley in the past. That hasn't been the case this season. 

The Bengals know what they have under center. Joe Burrow is special. They have to aggressively address their weaknesses if they're going to turn things around. 

"It’s definitely the most moves I’ve seen since I’ve been here," center Trey Hopkins said Thursday. "The front office, it’s obvious. It’s everywhere in the building. Guys are just hungry to win. Everyone in the building is bought in, in turning this thing around and getting Cincinnati where it needs to be, bringing excitement back to this city and having fun winning games."

Hopkins finds himself in a suddenly crowded room of interior offensive linemen. The Bengals added veteran center B.J. Finney in the Dunlap trade. They signed Spain a few days later. 

Combine that with Xavier Su'a-Filo being cleared to practice and the interior of the Bengals' offensive line has the most depth they've had in years. 

"We’re getting guys in here that will help us win," Hopkins said. "That’s what always goes through my mind. However, we can win is what’s best for us and for everybody. That’s what the coaches see and that’s what the higher ups see. If it can help us win then I’m with it."

The Bengals are hopeful that the additions help them make a run during the second half of the season. 

Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers on Sunday. Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. ET. 

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