If you had heard in early September that the Bengals would be forced to lose safety/linebacker Taylor Mays, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and to some degree, starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, it's doubtful that anyone would have saw the silver lining. Even a few months ago, traditional perspectives were prevalent when one significant injury, or one bad play, meant the end of Cincinnati's postseason run as the universe began initiating the process of the Big Crunch.
Credit Paul Guenther, writes our own Anthony Cosenza. When Lamur suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, Taylor Mays went from projected cut to versatile defensive player that beautifully slid into a comfortable role as a "secondary linebacker" that played the run well and the pass even better. Yet, when Mays suffered a... season-ending shoulder injury, the crickets vocalized reactions to possible replacements and free agency was a significant topic for conversion among fans.
But not the coaching staff.
Sure they invited linebackers into Cincinnati, worked them out and projected their overall production. In the end, that song and dance was as much a formality as it was "hoping" to find a needle within an undersized haystack.
Vincent Rey, a member of the Cincinnati Bengals since 2010, was given the opportunity and spoiled any hopeful player from gaining significant playing time. In three starts against the Dolphins, Ravens, and Browns, Rey has accumulated 36 tackles, three quarterback sacks, an interception, several tackles for loss and a handful of passes defensed. The current pace of his tackles would have nudged the 200-tackle milestone during a 16-game season.
Now he's teaming up with Vontaze Burfict, termed "The Killer Vs". Burfict has generated 38 tackles in the past three games, the only player with more than Rey, while also returning his own forced fumble for a touchdown.
"Vontaze [Burfict] has done a good job," linebackers coach Paul Guenther said. "He's playing at a high level -- Pro Bowl-level in my opinion. He's just got to keep going across the next five games."
Burfict currently has 146 tackles on the team, nearly double than second-place Rey Maualuga (77). If he remains at his current pace, he'll easily surpass the 200-tackle milestone.
However over the last three games, Burfict and Rey have combined for 72 tackles, three sacks, an interceptions, many tackles for loss, passes defensed, a touchdown and a forced fumble.
"The expectation (for the defense) never drops," said LB Vincent Rey. "The standard is very high at each position. When you’re out there, it’s your job to defend your gap and make your plays. The entire defense is counting on you. When I’m out there, the entire defense is counting on me to do my job, so that’s what I've got to do."