The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most underrated defenses in all the NFL. It’s a unit that finished in the top-10 in three major categories a year ago, and the guy at center of it all is Rey Maualuga. The middle linebacker led the team and finished 20th overall with 120 tackles in 2012. After four seasons his contract came up this past spring, but the two sides were able to come to an agreement on a new two-year/$6.5 million deal.
Heading into 2013, Maualuga is fully healthy and looking to continue his way up the ranks of the game’s best linebackers. He’ll be getting some help this year in the form veteran James Harrison, which will only make both players and the entire unit better.
Maualuga is clearly entering the second stage of his career, and the time is right for him to really put his stamp on the game. This entire Bengals team is on the rise, and it figures to get more spotlight than ever. The new eyes on Maualuga should dramatically increase his status on the national stage.
If you take a look at the middle linebacker’s career trends, one of them is that he gets a little bit better every year. Each of his first four seasons he’s raised his total tackles. Another good sign is that he’s stayed on the field thus far, only missing five starts in his first four seasons.
One area where he could stand to improve a little would be in the turnovers department. He’s been inconsistent in creating fumbles, and has failed to force one in two seasons (including 2012). I’m not sure we’ll see his tackles increase this year because of the addition of Harrison, so he should really strive to create more turnovers.
All in all, Maualuga is one of the best linebackers in the game today, and he’ll continue to prove that to new and old fans in 2013.
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