The Bengals have a major need at the linebacker position, particularly those who are proficient in coverage. While one would hope that they attack this need in free agency and possibly in the early portion of the NFL Draft, one player alone isn’t going to solve the problem.
Akron linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III could be an excellent addition for the Bengals later in the draft.
Gilbert had five total tackles in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game after a stellar week of practice, but the play that made him standout was the one he didn’t quite make. Gilbert read a running back screen and patiently waited before breaking on the ball. He jumped in behind a block and got his hands on the ball for what surely would have been a pick-six. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite haul it in.
#9 Akron LB Ulysees Gilbert III pic.twitter.com/JcFgrCqoMy— Coach Holaday (@Titan4Ever595) January 20, 2019
Though he didn’t make that particular splash play, but Gilbert is no stranger to defensive touchdowns. Gilbert has scored three defensive touchdowns in the 2017 season alone for the Zips.
In his college career, the three-time All-MAC linebacker had 353 total tackles and 3 interceptions. His numbers dropped off after being moved to the strong side for his senior year, but his junior season was extraordinary. That season he had 141 total tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 7 passes defended, and 3 interceptions including one he took back for a 69 yard touchdown.
Gilbert measured in at just over 6’0” and weighed in at 228 pounds this past week, confirming his stature does not match what a traditional NFL linebacker looks like. That couldn’t be more of a positive though.
For far too long, the Bengals have been insistent on prioritizing size at the MIKE linebacker, specifically, and have seen that position never be properly filled as a result. Speed matters more than size in the NFL now, and Gilbert looks to have plenty of that to spare.
While he will not single-handedly change the Bengals defense, Gilbert is the kind of addition that could help transform the state of their linebackers.