CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Thomas Howard #53 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after the 23-20 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bengals linebacker Thomas Howard signed a two-year deal following the NFL lockout in 2011. And all he managed to do was lead the defense with 120 tackles, contributing two forced fumbles, a quarterback sack and four passes defensed. The weakside linebacker, who was signed to replace an injured Keith Rivers, started 15 regular season games last year, including Cincinnati's postseason loss to the Houston Texans. And despite the success he managed to achieve, Howard believes that his best is yet to come.
The thing about the lockout in 2011 was the accelerated time it took for rookies and free agents to become acclimated into the system. Many of them learned on the fly, bits and pieces at a time. Now that a full season is under his belt as a Cincinnati Bengals linebacker, along with the offseason to truly absorb the information, Howard tells Greg Hoard with Bengals.com that he's going to be much more productive in 2012.
"After being here for a year, you get a little more comfortable and play with a little more confidence," said Howard. "You get a better feel for where everybody is and you understand Zim’s system better. Your communication is better and it’s all about communication on defense."
"When I’m playing behind guys like Geno Atkins, Robert Gathers, and Domata Peko, I should have a good year because those guys are phenomenal and they make my job easy…or at least easier," said Howard.
That being said Howard is entering the final year of his two-year deal in 2012. And it would be wise to sign the linebacker to an extension before this season starts, so that the 28-year old won't have a monster season heading into free agency next year.