The Bengals secondary should be among the NFL's best in 2015 thanks to a core of quality veterans and ascending young stars.
Free safety George Iloka may be the best of them all. Pro Football Focus graded George Iloka as Cincinnati's top defensive player with an overall grade of +9.4 in addition to being tied for the NFL's No. 12 safety. PFF also rated Iloka second on the team in run defense (+3.6) and pass coverage (+3.9).
Opposing quarterbacks targeted Iloka 31 times in the 2014 regular season, but completed just 12 passes (38.7 percent) for 176 yards. He didn't allow a touchdown during the regular season while opposing quarterbacks had a QB rating of 42.1.
All of this played a major role in PFF naming Iloka this year's Bengals Secret Superstar.
On the year Iloka allowed a reception just once every 51.8 snaps in coverage, the best mark in the league at safety, and a step up from the already impressive 42.4 he posted in 2013. He allowed just 12 receptions throughout the year, and just 176 receiving yards, giving him a Yards Per Coverage Snap allowed average of 0.28, good enough for 12th in the league.
His Run Stop Percentage when lined up within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage increased from just 2.7% in 2013, to 5.3%. That was only good enough for 30th among the 54 safeties with enough snaps against the run, but he still almost doubled his output against the run in the space of a year.
Iloka also saw his missed tackles drop from 13 to 9, and his Tackling Efficiency improve to 8.2, with was 27th at the position. Like his work against the run, there is definitely still room to improve here, but in both areas he took a big step forward in 2014.
The guys at PFF have done a good job at predicting future stardom for Bengals players, from defensive end Carlos Dunlap, to cornerback Adam Jones.
They even projected defensive end Wallace Gilberry to become a breakout star with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2011. While it didn't happen in KC, Gilberry did become that with the Bengals. In his first 31 games with Cincinnati, Gilberry registered 16 sacks and 34 QB hurries.
Unfortunately, they picked Marvin Jones last year, who ended up missing the entire season with ankle and foot injuries. Hopefully, Iloka does not suffer a similar fate as he enters a contract year with the Bengals.