The Cincinnati Bengals are wanting to be a special team this season, and in order to do that, they’re going to need major improvements from a couple of unlikely defenders. Linebacker Markus Bailey is one that may surprise fans.
Bailey was drafted in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft and didn’t play much this past season. He managed time in 11 games but just 180 snaps, 44 defensive. Bailey has a history of injuries, playing just four games his first year and last year at Purdue.
The 6-foot linebacker was a standout at Purdue, doing everything from stuffing the run to covering just about everyone. He accrued over 200 tackles in two of the three seasons in which he played the bulk of games.
After missing some time as a rookie, Bailey’s role in the defense is certainly in flux, but he may be starting to showcase his high-level potential. Bengals.com’s season writer Geoff Hobson answered a question about Bailey and how the team views him.
Hobson’s answer was, to say the least, positive for the linebacker entering his second season.
“They’re with you. They’re excited about Bailey, too. They love his speed, his ability to chase and his Purdue-smart instincts. They think he can take the next step as a contributor on defense and as a core special teamer. As they say, you can’t coach speed and keep an eye on Bailey during training camp. He might just leave with a real role on defense,” Hobson wrote.
Bailey is currently a backup, and that’s fine. The biggest questions he’ll have to answer is if he can keep up to the NFL pace and if he can contribute without getting injured. Hobson seems confident he’ll be able to do the first.
As long as he stays healthy, he’ll be able to help on special teams which could be important for Cincinnati. With injury history in their starting linebacking corps, Bailey's chance for a “real role” may come sooner rather than later.