The Bengals don't typically make big free agency splashes, but so far, Karlos Dansby has been a major addition.
When Dansby was initially signed, it was viewed as more of a depth move to give the Bengals another body and some versatility at a position that would be thin at to open the 2016 season.
At the time of this signing, Vontaze Burfict was set to serve a three-game suspension to open the season, while Emmanuel Lamur left in free agency after getting a lot of the SAM backer snaps the past two seasons.
Once Burfict returned, the thought was Dansby's snaps would lessen as the season wore on in a similar way to how A.J. Hawk was used last year.
And, Nick Vigil was drafted in the third round, making the linebacker position even more crowded. However, Dansby has shown he can be a force in this defense through the first two weeks, not to mention someone who should keep playing 20+ snaps per game even when Burfict returns. So those original plans look to be changing.
Dansby knows he's the exception when it comes to producing the way he is. 34-year-old players rarely make an impact on defense, especially at linebacker, where guys see their production drop off fast after age 30.
There's just too much speed, endurance and explosion required to make an impact at linebacker as you age, but Dansby, one of the oldest linebackers in the NFL and the oldest player on the Bengals, has looked fine in all of those regards through the first two weeks.
"The stigma of it, I'm breaking all of that. I'm breaking all barriers," Dansby told ESPN. "People say, 'Oh, old linebackers can't play.' But they see me moving, getting to the ball, making tackles in space. Doing things that I've been doing since I've been in the league."
Dansby has already racked up 21 total tackles after his 10-stop effort on Sunday. He currently ranks 10th in tackles this season in the league. He's been playing in the middle and on the strongside through two games, and his veteran presence has also been a welcome addition.
"That's what I'm striving for. I'm close, and I'm pressing right now," he said. "Guys feel my energy; they feel where I'm at.
"I'm playing with a bunch of guys I love being around... A bunch of guys who have the same drive. There's something different about that aspect of it, guys that have the same motor. And you don't want to let those guys down."
While we may be surprised at what the veteran backer has done so far this year, Dansby isn't surprised at all. He not only knows he can still make a major impact, but Dansby is still striving to be the best NFL linebacker ever.
While Dansby's career numbers don't exactly scream best ever, he is on the verge of joining some historic NFL company. He currently has 19 career interceptions. With one more, he would become only the fifth player in NFL history with 20 interceptions and 40 sacks.
"People want to know why I still play this game, and it's because I want to be the best to ever do it. The best," Dansby said. "And once I get this one interception, and if I score with it, I'm putting myself in that conversation. And I can't be taken out of that conversation, because you can't take those plays away from me. That's 20 interceptions and 40-something sacks. You just don't see that happen anymore. You don't see guys that are even close, and that's just how I view it as a ballplayer."
If Dansby can keep producing the way he is now for the remainder of the season, this defense will be very scary once Vontaze Burfict returns.