The Cincinnati Bengals real problem in 2019 was moving the ball and consistently keeping their defense off the field. After adding quarterback Joe Burrow and hopefully seeing Jonah Williams and A.J. Green return, that problem may soon vanish.
The new issue with the Queen City’s beloved team that could rear its ugly head is the lackluster linebacking corps. Can they stop the run? Can they defend tight ends? Given the new faces and the lack of experience, expectations should be tempered for this unit.
For Cincinnati, Jordan Evans, Germaine Pratt, Josh Bynes and then two rookie additions third-round pick Logan Wilson and four-round pickAkeem Davis-Gaither will all be fighting for snaps.
Wilson, Bynes and Pratt may be the three early favorites to start, but they’ll have quite a bit to prove. Pro Football Focus feels the same, ranking them as the third-worst linebacking corps in the NFL.
“The Bengals linebacking corps has the lowest grade in the NFL over the last two years, and they have heavily addressed the position in the draft over that span. They drafted Germaine Pratt in the third round of the 2019 draft, but he struggled to a 51.0 overall grade as a rookie. And Jordan Evans was showing signs that he could turn around his coverage woes after two years of grading in the 30s, but he was limited to just 76 snaps last season.
“Pratt and Evans will compete with third-round pick Logan Wilson and fourth-rounder Akeem Davis-Gaither. Wilson has an old-school build; he can play the run and looked good in Wyoming’s simple coverage schemes. Davis-Gaither played more of a hybrid role at Appalachian State, rushing the passer 190 times to go with 316 snaps in coverage, and he’s a smooth mover who should add subpackage versatility, though he must improve his tackling after missing 33 tackles over the last two years.
“Josh Bynes also comes over from the Baltimore Ravens, where he posted a career-high 80.0 overall grade across 428 snaps last season. He’s done his best work against the run, grading at 70.0 or better in all but one year of his eight-year career. It’s still not the most exciting linebacking corps in the league, but the Bengals have intriguing youth combined with veteran role players who should make this unit better,” Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazoolo wrote.
This group is unproven, and, as Palazoolo in theory notes, isn’t filled with any elite players that’ve left their market on the league. For that reason, they’re understandably one of the NFL’s worst-ranked linebacking corps.