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What I’m learning about: Rookie LB Malik Jefferson

After spending much of the offseason not paying attention to the Bengals, I’m catching up with all of the moves Cincinnati made. One question I have... what’s rookie LB Malik Jefferson all about?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

We’re reopening the double-glass doors to the “Chop Block”, which will be a home for random musings that do not justify a full-fledged article. It’s also home for those of us that spent the offseason tuned out of the NFL and are only re-familiarizing ourselves with it, the changes on the Bengals, and anything else.

If you use the internet as a baseline (and I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t), rookie linebacker Malik Jefferson might the team’s goldenest acquisition from the 2018 NFL draft — Cincinnati selected the Texas linebacker at No. 78 overall (Cincinnati had back-to-back third-round selections with the Bengals snagging Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard was No. 77).

As Jason Marcum on May 9, NFL scouts deeply praisedJefferson’s ability with one in particular saying:

“He is everything you want athletically,” said a second scout. “But I thought the instincts were off and the production was off. He didn’t get to the plays he should. He’s what I call a clear-view linebacker. If there’s nobody blocking him, if the defensive line keeps everybody off and if it’s right there between the tackles he can hammer you. But go try and find the ball, I thought he was really lacking. He looks just like you draw guys up. ‘Oh, my God, you want a linebacker, that’s the guy you want.’”

Wescott Eberts with Burnt Orange Nation spoke with our own Rebecca Toback after the NFL draft, describing Jefferson as athletic and charismatic. “Speed is his No. 1 strength -- he can range sideline to sideline and has an extra gear closing on opposing players in space,” said Eberts. “At times, he flashed as a pass rusher just due to his pure quickness.”

His weaknesses include instincts, ability to shed blocks, and questionable results in pass coverage.

One scout spoke with Bob McGinn, confirming Burnt Orange Nation’s analysis, adding that Jefferson is “what I call a clear-view linebacker. If there’s nobody blocking him, if the defensive line keeps everybody off and if it’s right there between the tackles he can hammer you.” So, Rey Maualuga? I kid, I kid.

Jefferson visited with the Pittsburgh Steelers and chatted with the Baltimore Ravens during the predraft stage, but neither team drafted a linebacker this year.

During his three-year career at Texas, Jefferson posted 231 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, with only two forced fumbles with one recovery going for a touchdown. Jefferson’s senior year was impressive, totaling 110 stops and 10 tackles-for-loss.

Jefferson has worked at WILL at Bengals training camp, behind Jordan Evans, who is a second-year linebacker who played 311 snaps as a rookie. Veteran Vincent Rey has been impressed with Jefferson so far. “He’s strong, fast, quick. He’s an AFC North linebacker,” Rey said via “Those are the guys that come in. He will (learn the spot). He’s been doing that and he’ll continue to do that.”

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is sidelined during training camp with a hamstring injury and will serve a four-game suspension in September for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. For his part, Burfict has stepped up as a mentor for young linebackers.

“We feed off his energy. We do everything he tells us to do,” Jefferson said of Burfict. “He coaches like Coach. He’s an expert. He knows exactly what to do. He’s really good to have around. It makes me challenge myself. I just try to imitate his game. Try to think like he does and play as fast as he does.”