The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the most underrated NFL teams in recent memory, having made the playoffs in four out of the last five years. Many fans have grown accustomed to hearing about the team’s top 10 offense, led by Pro Bowlers A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, and the team’s powerful front seven, led by Pro Bowl DT Geno Atkins and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Vontaze Burfict.
However, the Bengals’ impact players in the secondary have not become household names due to the fact that former Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer was able to help his corners and safeties, who were relatively unknown, overachieve. While this secondary is starting to get more attention with the addition of first round cornerback Darqueze Dennard, George Iloka remains one of the more uncommon names in the Bengals secondary.
Iloka, a fifth round draft pick from Boise State in 2012, is entering into his third season as a pro, his second as the Bengals’ starting strong safety. The 6-foot-4, 220 pound Iloka has the physical tools necessary to be a hard-hitting ball hawk, and he is starting to gain the experience necessary to break out. Iloka was third on the team in tackles last year with 66, while playing 17 full games without allowing an interception; he also forced two fumbles and caught one interception.
Iloka is already a solid strong safety, as he had the ninth best passer rating of all NFL safeties when quarterbacks threw his way last year. Iloka’s biggest problem is his ability to force turnovers, as he only forced three turnovers in the season as a full time starter. Coaches are well aware of this, and they are working with Iloka to help him become more aggressive and to instill confidence in him; as Iloka becomes more confident throughout the season, he will start forcing turnovers.
Iloka is already a solid starter for the Bengals, and he can only go uphill from here. Look for Iloka to force 3-4 fumbles and pick off 2-3 passes this year. As long as he can do this, Iloka will continue to remain the Bengals’ starting strong safety, and he can eventually develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber safety.