The Bengals defense has struggled in recent years, but one bright spot has been safety Jessie Bates III.
Bates is an incredible talent who won the starting position at free safety during his rookie training camp. He already has six interceptions and over 200 tackles in just two NFL seasons, and he is only 23 years old. He is already one of the best young talents in the NFL, and his career is only trending upwards.
Jessie Bates III
College: Wake Forest
Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN
Experience: three years
Bates is entering the 3rd year of his rookie deal and is under contract through 2021. He will make $929,801 this season and count as $1,349,403 against the cap.
The Bengals selected Bates in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He did not have a ton of pre-draft buzz, but astute analysts saw him as the best deep field safety in that year’s draft. He impressed the Bengals’ coaching staff quickly that the team released veteran George Iloka and made Bates the starter as a rookie.
Bates stood out in his first season with 111 tackles and three interceptions. On each of these interceptions he showed that he is a true ball hawk. He reads the quarterback well and has excellent range.
The Bengals’ defense struggled in Bates’ second season. They gave up far too many big plays, including long touchdowns. Many of these were passes to the deep middle zone. There seemed to be a lot of miscommunication in the secondary and it was not always clear if Bates or another defender was at fault.
The defense seemed to get more consistent as the season went on and Bates got more comfortable and confident in his role. After not recording an interception in the first half of the season, Bates had three in the last eight games. He also had 100 tackles.
Outlook for 2020
The Bengals made some massive changes in the secondary this offseason. While Bates, fellow safety Shawn Williams, and cornerback William Jackson all return for the 2020 season, veteran safety Vonn Bell enters the mix as do cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, replacing longtime starters Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard.
They also conducted a major overhaul at the linebacker position, drafting three of the best coverage linebackers in college football with Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Markus Bailey.
In the second year of the defense and with positive personnel changes, the defense will improve greatly in 2020. This sets up Bates, who has had success on bad defenses in recent years, for a breakout year.
Bates makes great reads and has the closing speed to make big plays. This is exactly the opportunity he’s been waiting for. Expect Bates to have a breakout season and become a national name in 2020.
Bates is an extremely talented player who has had success in the NFL, but is really just scratching the surface of what he can do.
He is young and still on his rookie contract. He will absolutely be on the roster in 2020 and will be a star on the defense.
Roster Odds: 100%