Chris Crocker helped Geoge Iloka turn it around

Joe Robbins

Bengals safety George Iloka was lost during his rookie season. It wasn't until Chris Crocker arrived that he began to understand what it's all about.

Bengals safety George Iloka is one of three players battling each other for the vacant strong safety job, opposite of Reggie Nelson. A job that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said recently, is wide open. Preseason couldn't come soon enough. Eventually the team will peak on what they can learn during training camp, especially when rotating multiple candidates at a single position, which offers little consistency though captures beautiful anxiety for a single play.

“I don’t know how it’s going to end up but I do think that we have some guys to pick from," Mike Zimmer told Dan Hoard.

Iloka told Hoard on Bengals.com (via Hoard's personal blog) that he didn't really grasp the defense during his rookie season. It wasn't until Chris Crocker arrived that Iloka was putting those pieces together.

“I’ll be the first to admit that last year I didn’t grasp this defense as well as I needed to in order to contribute,” said Iloka. “I didn’t realize that until I saw Crocker. You can’t just rely purely on your athletic ability as this level – especially at the safety position in this defense. You have to know the checks, and you have to be consistent because you’re not just playing for yourself out there.

“What really made me gravitate towards him was the fact that he got an interception in his first game back. He was basically on the couch and didn’t go to training camp or anything. It’s not like he did anything spectacular – he just did his job. He made the right reads and did the things that Coach Zimmer taught him and the pick came right to him. I said, ‘I’d better start watching this dude and picking his brain in order to learn as much as I can.’”

Anyone else think that the Bengals won't call Crocker when/if the need arises?

Mental mistakes. Or the lack thereof. That's the critical component from Iloka's perspective (learned from Crocker) that could quickly end his part of the training camp competition and impact his participation on the '13 Bengals defense. In the end, Iloka doesn't just want to beat Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams. He wants to crush them.

“If I want to beat out Taylor and Shawn, I have to make it obvious,” George told me. “That’s the mindset that I have and that’s what I plan on doing.”

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