The move to re-sign linebacker Rey Maualuga was already questionable enough for the Cincinnati Bengals, who watched their “SAM” turned “MIKE” make a mockery of himself in 2012.
The recent news that the Bengals plan on keeping him inside is even more shocking, and makes me wonder if Cincinnati even paid attention to how bad Maualuga played last season. Head coach Marvin Lewis knows best, though, right?
Throughout the 2012 season, Maualuga looked out of place at the middle linebacker spot. After spending his first two years with the Bengals on the strong-side, he just didn’t look natural on the inside. He took poor angles, made inconsistent reads and missed tackles far more often than he did during his days as the “SAM” backer. On top of that, his coverage was awful and all his mistakes appeared to take a toll on his confidence.
While I don’t believe that bringing him back was an awful move, Maualuga returning to the middle is. When he played the strong-side, the former second-round pick out of USC was sensational. He missed less tackles, made more plays in coverage and was all-around a more-efficient player. The Bengals, however, have chosen to keep him in a position that doesn’t best utilize his talents.
Meanwhile, the Bengals have a budding young start in Vontaze Burfict, who’s coming off of a sensational rookie season. After joining Cincinnati as an undrafted rookie, Burfict quickly proved doubters wrong, locking down the starting weak-side linebacker spot and playing with the ferocity that made him a star in college.
Prior to Maualuga’s re-signing, it appeared that Burfict was in a terrific position to take over as the Bengals’ middle linebacker. With that role returning to Maualuga, though, Burfict will again be forced to man the outside.
The Bengals are digging their own grave and must accept the fact that they’ve brought this upon themselves. Enjoy another year of Maualuga floundering in the middle.