Bengals: Will a flawed approach to the linebacker position change?
Year to year, the level of play from the Bengals linebacker position has been below average at best. The Bengals have had consistent trouble covering tight ends and tracking running backs out of the backfield.
I was always curious how a guy like Marvin Lewis, who grew up playing the linebacker position and then made his bones in the NFL with the help of great linebackers, seemed to attach so little importance to the position.
Lewis had Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene and Levon Kirkland in Pittsburgh. He had Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware in Baltimore.
Zac Taylor and his new staff tabbed Germaine Pratt in the 3rd round last year and added free agent Josh Bynes this offseason. What's next?
The Bengals selected 18 linebackers during 16 drafts with Marvin Lewis. The Bengals used an average draft position of 98.8 overall (2nd to last pick of 3rd round) in those 16 drafts.
Bengals LB picks by round since 2003: 1st (2), 2nd (2), 3rd (8), 4th (2), 5th (2), 6th (2), supplemental (1)
The last time they used at least a 2nd round pick on LB was Rey Maualuga in........2009.
Here is their draft history at the position since 2003.
2003: Kahlid Abdullah, 5th round
2004: Caleb Miller, 3rd round, Landon Johnson, 3rd round
2005: David Pollack, 1st round, Odell Thurman 2nd round
2006: A.J. Nicholson, 5th round, Ahmad Brooks, supplemental pick
2008: Keith Rivers, 1st round
2009: Rey Maualuga, 2nd round
2010: Rodrick Muckelroy, 4th round
2011: Dontay Moch, 3rd round
2013: Sean Porter, 4th round
2014: Marquis Flowers, 6th round
2015: P.J. Dawson, 3rd round
2016: Nick Vigil, 3rd round
2017: Carl Lawson, 4th round, Jordan Evans, 6th round
2018: Malik Jefferson, 3rd round
2019: Germaine Pratt, 3rd round
They have dabbled in free agency and with undrafted free agents ranging from:
Vontaze Burfict, Dhani Jones, Preston Brown, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Hardy, A.J. Hawk, Manny Lawson, Thomas Howard, Vinny Rey, Kevin Minter, Brandon Johnson, Brandon Bell, James Harrison, Emmanuel Lamur, Jayson DiManche, Hardy Nickerson Jr., Chris Worley.
I'm sure I'm forgetting some other forgettable linebackers to wear the uniform here. How did that approach work out?
I count one Pro Bowl season: Vontaze Burfict (2013). Sure, the Bengals got some decent to solid to good years out of some players, but not nearly enough.
It just never added up to me. It makes you wonder if there was a built in arrogance in that Lewis and the organization believed they could take any linebacker prospect and simply coach them into a player that would produce?
And consider the way the game continues to evolve and the growing need for linebackers that can drop, run and cover.
Isn't it time the Bengals get serious about the position?