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Top-Five Bengals Players With the Most to Prove: No. 3

Editor's note: There are a lot more players than five that have something to prove in 2011. In fact, the entire team has something to prove. However, I narrowed down five players that have the most to prove this season and ranked them in order. Here is No. 3......

Linebacker Rey Maualuga

I think out of everybody on this list, even the people I haven't mentioned yet, Rey Maualuga has made the biggest impact on the team. He's started in 31 of 32 games, made 132 tackles, two sacks and intercepted two passes. He was good as a rookie and even better in his second year. 

So why is he on this list?

He's on this list because next year is probably going to be completely different for him.

If the Bengals decide not to re-sign middle linebacker Dhani Jones, and many believe they won't, Maualuga will make the move from outside linebacker to middle linebacker, which is the position he's meant for, but it also comes with a lot of extra responsibilities. 

Not only does Maualuga pretty much need to know what everybody on the defense is doing on every play, he also needs to step up and be the leader to everybody on the field. He'll be calling the plays and he'll need everybody on the defense to trust him. That's going to be a tall order, but Maualuga thinks he's ready for it.

"Last year I was just a person that was following the crown, just listening," Maualuga said. "Now I feel my presence and the way to speak to the guys will help one of two people. I'm just trying to be that leader and no matter how it works out, when the season starts I'm trying to be that captain. That's my goal.

"When it's third-and-short, I want everybody to look in my eyes and feel confidence knowing I can call a play, line everybody up and make that play."

His head coach, Marvin Lewis, believes in him too.

If Maualuga can pull it off, and he certainly has the physical skills to do so, he'll be considered one of the biggest steals in the 2009 draft. If he can't, though, Bengals fans may wonder if he fell to Cincinnati in the second round for a reason.

That's why he has the third most to prove of any Bengal in 2011.