BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 20: Linebacker Rey Maualuga #58 of the Cincinnati Bengals walks to the field before taking on the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Even though we've conjectured here at Cincy Jungle that the Cincinnati Bengals should reexamine Rey Maualuga's move at middle linebacker, it by no means concludes that the Bengals will (or even could) find someone that would compete with Maualuga by next season's training camp. Maualuga will be Cincinnati's starting middle linebacker in 2012; there's no disputing that one way or the other.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis believed that after a strong start, Maualuga's season slowed mainly due to an ankle injury he suffered during practice in mid-October.
"Rey going forward will continue to develop," said Lewis. "I think this year he got off to a really good start and then I think the ankle injury really kind of slowed his progress a little bit and then he did a lot of really good things Saturday (against Houston).
According to Maualuga's biography page on Bengals.com, the team's middle linebacker registered 51 tackles during Cincinnati's first five games before suffering an ankle sprain that forced him to miss three games. Maualuga also led the team with three forced fumble.
Truth is that Maualuga's injury was noticeable, specifically his playing time. During his first five games of the season, Maualuga averaged 62.2 defensive snaps per game. From his return against the Pittsburgh Steelers through last weekend's wild card loss, Maualuga average defensive snaps per game dropped to 48.4.
Maualuga is entering his final year under contract, scheduled to earn $565,000 in 2012.