For a while now, the Bengals have had a big problem at the linebacker position and have largely lacked athleticism at the position.
They attempted to address it in this draft with a third-round selection (which they’ve totally never done before) in linebacker Germaine Pratt. Pratt had a solid college career and tested well at the Combine, and well eventually one of these third-round linebackers has to work out, right?
Let’s take a look at why exactly he is exactly what the Bengals need.
1. Athleticism at linebacker
As touched on earlier, the Bengals desperately need athleticism and that is something that Pratt has. He is a little bit stiff in the hips, but he is faster than most of the Bengals linebackers. This allows him to get sideline to sideline unlike most other linebackers on the Bengals.
2. Competition for Malik Jefferson
As mentioned earlier, the Bengals have not had the best luck with their third-round picks at linebacker. This includes 2018 third-round pick Malik Jefferson, who did not contribute in 2018. Which may slightly make some sense as he was seen as an athletic project, but lighting a fire underneath him can only be good. Jefferson has a lot of athletic potential, but he needs to develop and if he can that would be a good turning point for the linebacker group.
3. Replacement for Preston Brown
The Bengals signed Brown to a three year contract, but they have an out after one year of the contract. With Pratt being in the fold, they could potentially take the out and have a replacement. That would save money and trend them more towards youth in the linebacker position, which should only bring good things.
4. Man coverage versatility
The Bengals had the worst pass covering linebackers in the NFL in 2018, so really there is no where to go but up. Pratt definitely offers some nice versatility in that regard as a former safety. He has a good base of skills in both man and zone coverage, so he should be able to make an instant impact there. It just comes down to whether or not the Bengals give him a chance.
5. Coverage variety
With the way the league has been trending, versatility is very important, and with Pratts large amount of skills he brings exactly that. He gives the Bengals the opportunities to do multiple things from the same formation. He offers some things that no other linebackers on the Bengals currently offer, with his success as a blitzer and in coverage.