The Bengals got hit hard at linebacker in 2014 due to injury, and they're already off to a rough start in 2015.
Pro Bowler Vontaze Burfict is set to open the regular season on the PUP list, meaning Cincinnati will be without their two-time tackle leader for the first six games. There's also SLB Emmanuel Lamur's hamstring issue that forced him from Monday's game and kept him out of practice this week.
The Bengals have typically dealt with injuries at linebacker well because of Vincent Rey's admirable job answering the call, figuratively and literally. As LB Chris Carter told ESPN, Vinny is charged with making a lot of the defense's pre-snap calls, and he does it with the kind authority and leadership you want from a team captain.
"For myself, when I'm out there and he's (Rey) out there with me, it gives me confidence," Carter said. "He's a knowledgeable dude. He knows what everybody's got going on. When you've got a guy out there that you can refer to if you've got any questions, you know it's like having another coach on the field."
With Burfict and starting MLB Rey Maualuga sidelined for stretches of the 2014 season, Rey started at both WLB and MLB. It was his play at WLB that got him recognized by Pro Football Focus as one of the best tackling linebackers in 2014.
His tackling efficiency of 28.1 meant that Rey missed one tackle in every 21.8 attempts, which was the second-highest rate of any OLB. He knows his talent is not up to par with many starting LBs in the NFL, but it's his heart, hustle and desire that makes him someone who has a positive impact on his team.
"I may not be the fastest, strongest, biggest guy, but it's just making sure that everybody's on the same page," Rey told ESPN. "Everything before the snap, if everything's 100 percent, then I have a chance. That's how I see it. I just want everybody to be on the same page. I don't want it to be my fault. I don't want to be the reason why we're not winning that snap, we're not competing well.
"Everyone has a job, and everyone's counting on me to do my job. That's why I'm loud as heck out there."
The Bengals will once again be counting on Rey heavily in 2015 with Burfict expected to open on PUP. In the meantime, Vinny should get most of the snaps at WLB after playing there almost exclusively down the stretch last year. From Weeks 10-17, Rey was ranked 15th out of 38 OLBs who played in at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps. It was the first time in Rey's five-year career the special-teams ace became a full-time starter.
Because the Bengals' defense struggled for much of 2014, Rey's solid play in the absence of Burfict was an overlooked bright spot. He'll be counted on more to replicate that in 2015 with no certainty Burfict will ever be fully recovered from his microfracture surgery this year.
The good news is it's not a crippling loss like it would be for a lot of teams, and that's because most teams don't have a guy like Rey coming off the bench to pick up the slack.