When the Bengals saw that USC linebacker Rey Maualuga was still available in the second round, they couldn't say his name fast enough. It was one of those moments that you witnessed, thinking, wow, we actually got him in the second round? Who would have thunk it. However, Maualuga wasn't necessarily needed as an inside linebacker after Dhani Jones recorded 165 tackles in 2008 -- by far the largest margin compared to any defender on the roster.
Lesson #1: You don't take a guy that recorded 165 tackles one season and replace him with a rookie.
But you couldn't necessarily keep Rey Maualuga off the field either. Solution? Move him out as a strong-side linebacker during base 4-3 formations. Even so, Maualuga had to work his way up as the team's starting linebacker, beating out Rashad Jeanty at a position he had little experience at.
Now the question is, when (or if) will Maualuga move back inside as a middle linebacker? Marc Hardin of Bengals Insider writes:
As the Bengals' coaching staff staged its involvement with this past week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., some clues as to how the Cincinnati defense is going to look in 2010 came to light in various reports, one that suggests big changes may be afoot within the linebacker unit, specifically involving Maualuga.
According to one report, an unnamed Bengals source indicated that Maulauga may be on the move within the team's defensive scheme.
Scout.com senior NFL reporter Adam Caplan wrote in his Senior Bowl Insider Blog on Monday that, "According to a team source, Cincinnati Bengals LB Rey Maualuga probably will be moved to MLB for the 2010 season."
Hardin goes on to speculate about the move, saying it could be a transformation into a 3-4 defense, that it could indicate a move to draft athletic defensive ends and move them to outside linebacker, etc. Moving Maualuga inside is an eventuality. At the same time, as long as Dhani Jones is capable and under contract, I can't see the Bengals replacing Dhani, whose respected by the team for his play on the field as well as his leadership.
Then again, they could always swap Dhani and Rey.