George Iloka remains one of the Bengals’ best kept secrets, as far as the average NFL fan goes. He has quietly risen up the ranks as one of the NFL’s best safeties during the past few seasons. He may not be the flashiest safety, but he does his job incredibly well.
Iloka signed a second deal with the Bengals last season to ensure Cincinnati’s secondary includes his veteran presence for years to come. A huge part of his game comes from making checks in the secondary.
“He’s a general back there. He makes us all go,” Shawn Williams told Bengals.com this offseason. “He’s a smart one who keeps us all on the same page. When it gets chaotic he’s the one that kind of calms us down and gets us back on page. Very smart. Very smart.”
Iloka’s work has shown with the lack of big plays by opposing teams. Last season, the Bengals only allowed seven plays for more than 40 yards. They also only allowed 46 plays of more than 20 yards, which tied for eighth best in the NFL.
Iloka’s place as one of the Bengals’ most important defenders has been cemented, and we shouldn’t expect it to change anytime soon.
College: Boise State
Hometown: Houston, TX
Experience: Sixth-year player
Draft Status: Fifth round pick in 2012
Iloka is in the second year of his five year, $30 million contract extension, which he signed in the 2016 offseason. He will earn a base salary of $4 million this season while carrying a $5.4 million cap hit, according to Sportrac. If he were to be released this season (which will not happen) he’d have a $2,400,000 dead cap hit in 2017. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
Iloka is currently the eighth highest paid Bengals player in 2017, based on base salary. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given all he provides for the team.
Iloka came to the Bengals via a fifth round pick in 2012 NFL Draft, which was acquired from a trade with the Giants for former first round pick, Keith Rivers.
Iloka played four years at Boise State, but he never really stood out as one of the top safeties in the country. His rookie season didn’t do much to hint at what he has become either. He appeared in only 7 games, and he didn’t start in any of them.
He became a starter in 2013 and played alongside the likes of Reggie Nelson, Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones in the secondary. Although that same offseason, Iloka started off very poorly, as documented by HBO’s Hard Knocks, which chronicled the Bengals’ preseason. He broke his hand by punching a fellow teammate’s helmet. Iloka has come a long way since that though. He has steadily improved every season, and he has gained the respect of his teammates along the way.
George Iloka NFL Stats
Iloka has become essential to the Bengals defense. As Cincinnati transitions from players like Nelson, Hall, Adams and Newman to younger defensive backs in Williams, Dre Kirkpatrick, William Jackson III, and Darqueze Dennard, Iloka’s leadership and ability to get everyone on the same page is paramount. Iloka talked about one such instance earlier this offseason.
“There are things in [the playbook] you don’t really talk about,” Iloka told bengals.com. “It’s just from playing with a guy. There’s stuff that me and Dre know that Willie and I don’t know … ‘This is how we play it. I know that’s not what they’re saying, but this is how we play it.’ Dre and I have that kind of rapport now. That’s all that was last year.”
It is instances like this that will help the Bengals maintain their defensive consistency going forward with whoever ends up taking the starting spot opposite Kirkpatrick when the Bengals finally move on from Jones.
As the Bengals most reliable defender, Iloka’s spot in the secondary should be safe for seasons to come.
Roster odds: 100%