Germaine Pratt was part of Zac Taylor’s first draft class in 2019. Now, he is one of the most experienced linebackers on the roster.
With only 24 games started, the next linebacker is Jordan Evans with nine (though Evans has 28 games played on Pratt).
Other linebackers on the roster include Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Markus Bailey, Joe Bachie, and Keandre Jones. None of them have ever started, and only the first two have had significant action.
Pratt, at just 25 years of age, has quickly found himself in a leadership role as a returning starter. That makes his 2021 season all the more critical for his career.
Weight: 245 lbs
College: NC State
Hometown: High Point, NC
Experience: Entering his third year
Pratt is in the third year of his rookie contract, which is very affordable for the Bengals since he was only a third-round pick. He will make $863,000 with $263,221 of his signing bonus prorated to this year. His cap hit is $1,126,221, while his potential dead cap amount is just $526,442.
When Taylor let Lou Anarumo take over the defense, Anarumo started shaping it in his own vision. No position group has changed more than the linebackers.
Taylor and Anarumo wanted to move away from the Marvin Lewis prototype of bulky run-stuffers, like Preston Brown and Vontaze Burfict. Instead, they wanted more athletic linebackers who could cover tight ends and running backs.
So the first defender drafted in this new era was Pratt.
Pratt committed to NC State as a safety, and played there for two years. He moved to linebacker his junior year, and really found his rhythm during his senior year.
In his rookie year, he sat behind Brown for the first half of the season. But the Bengals cut Brown in November 2019, and Pratt has been starting ever since.
In 2020, the Bengals brought in Josh Bynes to captain the linebacker group. The 31-year old veteran had a solid year, but the Bengals don’t plan on bringing him back.
After 24 starts in two years, Pratt has 165 total tackles, nine for a loss, and two passes defended. In the 2021 season, he will be a key piece in the middle of the field.
Outlook for 2021
Pratt is the only linebacker with starting experience other than Evans. But Evans will most likely play a special teams role, leaving Pratt to be the captain of the defense.
Pratt will likely start at outside linebacker, while Wilson joins him in the middle. The tandem of third-round picks will play for the majority of the game, especially on early downs.
The question is if Pratt will stay on the field on third downs. Last year, Pratt and Bynes left the field to let Wilson and Davis-Gaither play in passing situations. In 2021, will Pratt get to play every down? Or will there be a third down package again that will take him off the field?
Pratt is going to be a key part of this defense. He’s the closest thing this linebacker group will have to “a coach on the field.” As the younger linebackers develop, they want Pratt’s experience on the defensive side of the ball.
Roster odds: 99%