Top-Five Bengals Players With The Most To Prove: Number One

US PRESSWIRE

Counting down the top-five players with the most to prove in 2013. We conclude with the player that has the most to prove in 2013.

Where do we go from here? What information do we provide that would shock you into a realization that Rey Maualuga deserves to be here? It's not like you need a convincing argument.

Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was a fan-darling after being selected during the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. Steal, was a description often used. Since there was virtually no chance he'd replace ol' Dhani Jones, who the Bengals often cited as being another coach on the field, Maualuga fought and won the strong-side linebacker position over Rashard Jeanty. Though never reliable in coverage, Maualuga proved himself a capable run stopper as an outside linebacker, missing only ten tackles (according to Pro Football Focus) in two years at SAM.

When age, retirement and the discovery of television ended Dhani Jones' career in the NFL, the Bengals made the logical decision to move Maualuga inside. In two years as the team's starting middle linebacker, Maualuga finished second on the team with 115 tackles in 2011 and 152 in 2012. In both cases, the team's weakside linebacker generated led the team; Thomas Howard in 2011 (120 stops) and Vontaze Burfict in 2012 (432,136 174).

Though his playing time vastly increased with the move inside, Maualuga missed 30 tackles in two years while often being graded as one of the worst coverage linebackers in the game. Various criticism levied against Maualuga also includes the propensity to receive blockers, rather than viciously attacking running lanes like his first two seasons at SAM. Other times Maualuga will avoid blockers entirely, which has taken him out of the play. At best he's a two-down linebacker, who plays the run but his coverage has always been a liability (the loss against Houston wasn't anything new).

After receiving limited interest during free agency, the Bengals brought Maualuga back with a two-year deal worth $6.5 million. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, head coach Marvin Lewis and even position coach Paul Guenther, praise Maualuga's talents but continue to recite similar criticisms that Maualuga tends to obsesses about his failures. Players fail. That's life. That's sports.

Unfortunately Maualuga's failures affects his overall play and the Bengals feel that once that limitation dissolves, the fifth-year linebacker could produce as expected. But he has to prove it.

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