With the summer in full swing and NFL training camps less than two months away now, we gathered our Cincy Jungle staff to rank the top 25 Bengals of the 2020 season.
This ranking is simply who we believe are the 25 best Bengals heading into next season. It includes veterans and rookies alike, though it obviously is more favorable of players who’ve actually played snaps in the NFL, so don’t expect guys like Joe Burrow to be a top-five player right off the bat.
For a recap of the list, check out our stream here.
The second name on our list is player returning for his second season at a position that absolutely needs to be turned around.
No. 24: Germaine Pratt, linebacker
Pratt had a pretty strange rookie season. Many fans may not have seen why he is even ranked in the top 25 because he didn’t show off much before the team was 0-8. Most fans understandably probably checked out at that point, or at the very least didn’t watch every snap of every game in the second half of the season.
As a rookie, Pratt only started nine games, but he played in all 16 games. He was the Bengals third-round pick prior to the season, but he really didn’t get too much of a shot at playing until Week 6 against the Ravens. That was mostly due to the amount of times the Bengals played a traditional base 4-3 defense with three linebackers.
Prior to Week 10, what we saw from the rookie wasn’t anything to write home about. He had a few flash plays where he would make a tackle, but more often than not, he either wasn’t involved in the few plays he was out there for or he was making a mistake. That is totally understandable though for a rookie.
What many may have missed was after linebacker Preston Brown getting released following Week 10, Pratt actually showed signs of improvement for a defense that significantly improved down the stretch. Suddenly, he was making plays behind the line of scrimmage and keeping up with athletic tight ends and running backs. It was something fans of this team really hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Sure, he would still get picked on in coverage from time to time, but you could see he had the speed to keep plays that normally would’ve gone for 20 yards down to a reasonable short gain. All because he could actually get to the sideline.
Pratt totaled 76 tackles (50 solo) with four tackles for a loss. What those stats don’t tell you is how serviceable he was compared to guys like Brown and Nick Vigil (although to be fair, to Vigil he was much better in the second half of the season as well). Pratt was such a sure-tackler and had the ability to make plays in open space, him becoming more involved on defense was part of the reason for defense turning things around (used in a relative sense) the second half of last season.
Going into 2020, the linebacker group is going to look very different for Cincinnati. The only returning face may be Pratt as the team signed Josh Bynes and drafted Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaithers and Markus Bailey. Pratt is going to be the only one of these players who spent last season with the Bengals.
It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff gets these players on the field as it is also likely the Vonn Bell and/or Shawn Williams will be taking some snaps from linebackers next season as well. They still have to replace Vigil’s snaps as he signed with the Chargers, and he played the third most snaps among defenders last season.
Considering that Pratt has experience he should be starting with Bynes and give ample opportunity to introduce himself to fans who may have missed his progress from last season.