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Bengals Round Table: Rey Maualuga's Transition Inside And Leadership

Welcome to another round of our experimental Bengals Round Table. With the positive reviews we received from our previous Bengals Round Table, we wanted to give it another go and keep experimenting with it. With multiple discussions on the table, we elected to break up the table based on the topics that were in discussion. Of course you can add to our discussions in the comments. Consider it something like an open thread, with us providing introductory information to start. All of the questions were asked by Jason Garrison, though we're going to be putting out a call for questions on Twitter in the future. Now on with it.

Do you think that Rey Maualuga has what it takes to lead the 2011 defense as the middle linebacker or do you think that we'll find ourselves missing Dhani Jones?

Josh Kirkendall: The coaches often praised Dhani as a coach on the field, putting defensive players in the right position. So we might miss that. In terms of production, I'm not sure how much Maualuga will improve the overall rush defense, considering we're going to miss Jones' 300-plus tackles in the past two years. Though we suspect that Maualuga's pass coverage will be exponentially better than Dhani.
Naji Bsisu: Rey seems ready to take over the leadership role as this team's starting middle linebacker, as evidenced by Marvin's recent comments with how impressed he was with Rey's transition. As far as his production on the field, I do believe that Rey will be able to handle the run more effectively, while I doubt that his pass coverage will be that much worse than Dhani.
Josh: The coaches are definitely confident in Rey's transition. His move to the middle is one of the most eagerly anticipated moves this offseason.
Jason Garrison: Well this is the position he's built to play. He's a natural middle linebacker.

Josh: Plus you have to love how he stayed in Ohio and worked out with his teammates. That shows a certain leadership quality.
Jason: I definitely do. He's taken the leadership aspect of middle linebacker and ran with it.
Naji: He seems to have the personality of a natural leader and it should show this year.
Josh: But what happens if he doesn't? Will the Bengals bring back Dhani and move Rey outside? Or is this the rebuilding year and we'll just grow as go?
Naji: I think he's got 16 games to show if he's the man or not. We're not going to the Super Bowl this year so we might as well get a good look at what we have with Rey.
Jason: If he doesn't, I don't think the Bengals go back to Dhani. I think they give Rey another year to adjust. But I don't think he'll need it
Naji: Me neither, I think he will flourish this year.
Josh: I'm anticipating a lot from Rey this year. I'm expecting a bigger year with Rey's first year in the middle than Andy Dalton at quarterback -- though it will be Rey's third season, so he has that NFL experience.
Jason: I agree.

Jason: How surprised are you guys about how much the linebacker position has completely changed over the last week with the injuries and the free agent signings? I don't think I've ever seen Mike Brown go after so many players in one position before.
Josh: I am, but I'm not. I am surprised that they went out and grabbed the established veterans that they did sign, but I'm not surprised because these signings were primarily as a reaction to those injuries. It's not like we were looking to upgrade the position until we were forced to. Trivial observation, I guess.
Naji: I was more surprised by the fact that we signed two free-agents from other teams before re-signing Dhani Jones or Brandon Johnson. I give them props for getting Manny Lawson though, I think he has great potential.
Josh: Good pass rusher. Imagine a scenario with Lawson and Dontay Moch blitzing from both linebacker spots. Goose bumps.
Jason: I agree. I like Lawson and Thomas Howard. I do think that the team should still sign Brandon Johnson, though. Before Keith Rivers comes back to the team, there won't be a ton of depth behind Lawson, Maualuga and Howard. Johnson could help.
Josh: Big momentum in talks with Brandon Johnson right now. Could be signed by the end of the week at least.
Naji: I agree, I was glad to see that talks were progressing between the Bengals and Brandon Johnson. He's a valuable backup and special teams player.
Josh: I 'm just not so sure about Thomas Howard. Good start to his career, but he hasn't been as effective in the past two seasons. Not only did he lose his starting job, but he only had 62 defensive snaps last season.

Naji: Do you think that Mike Zimmer and/or Fitzgerald were involved in asking Marvin to get them some more adept pass-rushing linebackers?
Jason: I don't know but it's possible. A team's ability to get to the quarterback is crucial in the NFL now because it's a passing league.
Josh: I'm guessing that it's Marvin that's pushing it as much as anyone. He knows the value of a great pass rush.
Naji: I ask because I was expecting more of an improvement out of our linebacker core when we brought Fitzgerald over from Baltimore and was a little disappointed in their play. Perhaps it was because he didn't have his guys in there though.
Josh: But we should also temper our pass rushing expectations. Moch is an unproven rookie, Lawson, while known as a good pass rusher, only has 14.5 sacks in five seasons. Michael Johnson has 5.5 quarterback sacks in 32 career games. Guys will have to have career years behind Carlos Dunlap.