Rey Maualuga leads the team with eight solo tackles and that's adding into the idea that the team's starting middle linebacker hasn't even played more than a handful of snaps during maybe five quarters of three preseason games. Would it be that big of a stretch to call Maualuga the Cincinnati Bengals top defensive player?
Maualuga played two seasons as the team's starting strong-side linebacker since joining the Bengals during the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft. This year with Dhani Jones not returning, Maualuga is finally making the transition into his more natural middle linebacker spot. Even so, he's still adjusting, thinking too much about the play before letting his natural instincts take over.
"It comes and goes," he said. "I think in due time everything will unveil itself and I'm just going to go out there and play ball instead of thinking too much."
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer agrees:
"He's adjusting to making the calls," Zimmer said. "I think he's been playing the run good and actually has been OK on the pass."
Maualuga's transition comes at a good time, considering that the Bengals are largely a team rebuilding with a new offensive philosophy with new skill players. By this time next year, with the offense having a year under their belts, so will Maualuga as the defensive leader and middle linebacker.