As has been noted many times this offseason, the Bengals have some major decisions to make and much work to do with their linebacker corps. At least two starting positions will be open for 2013, with the middle likely being one of those spots. It doesn't appear that Rey Maualuga will be back to man the middle of the defense, so Marvin Lewis' never-ending search for a captain of his defense will continue.
Many think that Lewis already has that player on the roster in Vontaze Burfict. Last year's undrafted rookie phenom was pressed into action earlier than anticipated because of an injury to Thomas Howard. He was the starter at the weakside spot for most of the year and led the team in tackles. Though many knew the potential that Burfict held, it was still a pleasant surprise to get that kind of production from a player that wasn't even drafted.
Middle linebacker was and is Burfict's natural position. He played it Arizona State at an extremely high level and many believe that he is the next man up for the job. It makes sense because of his ability to tackle and quality play against the run. Covering receivers and/or tight ends isn't his strong suit, but he also isn't a liability in the facet of the game. This is usually the M.O. of a middle linebacker. As it stands, Burfict is the best option for the club that currently remains on the roster.
However, the Bengals and their staff under Lewis have nasty habits of not only playing guys at unnatural positions, but also switching them around to different spots. These nasty habits usually lead to a hindrance in a young player's development. This could be the case with Burfict, who began to grow comfortable in his role on the weakside. If Burfict is moved to the middle, the team would run the risk of overwhelming the second-year man because of the added responsibilities he will be given in such a scenario. With a multiple years at the same position, Burfict could really shine as the pro game could slow down for him.
So, would you rather the Bengals move Burfict to the middle - his natural position - and man the defense for 2013, or would you rather let Burfict continue to grow at a spot where he excelled last year and bring in another player to captain the defense?