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King: Bengals Coaching Staff Feels Rey Maualuga Ready To Move Inside

An interesting, though somewhat expected, note from Peter King's Training Camp Postcard is the situation at linebacker. We've known for some time that Mike Zimmer wants to play defensive end Michael Johnson as an outside linebacker. What we've heard in the past is that the conversion will be based on scenarios. However, King takes it much further saying that the move might be permanent in an effort to get Rey Maualuga in the middle.

Second-year man Michael Johnson is moving from defensive end to strongside linebacker, where coaches would like him to win the starting job. And this likely will be the year the Bengals move Rey Maualuga to middle linebacker and move Dhani Jones out of the starting role. Jones will still make the team as one of the key leaders, but there is a lot of sentiment among the coaching staff that Maualuga is ready.

I really like Dhani Jones. When the team's linebacker corp was, simply put, a disaster in 2007, the Bengals brought in Jones, who was out of work at the time. In large part to Jones, the position stabilized. Then in 2008, Jones recorded 163 tackles -- a massive margin of 51 tackles over Brandon Johnson, the team's second-leading tackler. In 2009, Jones' 142 tackles again dominated the margin, recording 41 more than the second leading tackler, Keith Rivers and no linebacker recorded more sacks (3.5) than Jones.

All that being said, the change makes sense. Jones, 32 years old, is entering the final year under contract. Maualuga has always figured to be the team's future middle linebacker, but during his rookie season, it made more sense to have Jones in the middle with Maualuga playing on the strong-side. Now with someone like Michael Johnson able to replace Maualuga at linebacker, or so the coaches feel confident of, the switch can be made.