Hasn’t Jessie Bates already broken out? I guess it depends on perspective.
The 54th overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft wasted no time making his mark in the already talented Bengals secondary. By Week 8, he was tied for second amongst safeties with three interceptions and was a member of Pro Football Focus’ Midseason All-Rookie Team. The second half of the season saw Bates go through more ups and downs as the entire team struggled, but a high-quality rookie season is a high-quality rookie season.
Gil Brandt thought as much and praised Bates as one of his nine defensive backs on the verge of a breakout season. Brandt cited Bates’ heavy usage in Cincinnati’s defense as a rookie and continual improvement as positives for his development upwards this year.
The fact that Bates’ new defensive coordinator is a former defensive backs coach gives Brandt even more confidence in the 22-year old.
The offseason hiring of new Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, whose specialty coming up has been coaching defensive backs, should only help Bates take his game to an even higher level.
The common complaint when it came to the Bengals’ defense last year was the prevalence of miscommunication due to the constant flux of what the defense was from a scheme perspective. When you’re unsure about what to do, you tend to do it slower than normal.
This was an obvious issue for linebackers and defensive backs in Cincinnati, and as the free safety, Bates was charged for keeping things in check at times. He succeeded and failed as much as could’ve been expected for an ultra-talented, yet, inexperienced player.
With Anarumo running things on that side of the ball, keeping things more clear and consistent is huge for Bates and the 10 other defenders on the field. Instincts at the free safety position is vital and cannot be taught at this stage, they can only be enhanced. Bates is in a great position to become even more dangerous in Cincinnati’s defense and establish himself as one of the best players at the position.