No player sees the Bengals’ defense better than Jessie Bates III. After all, he does have the best view.
The 24-year old free safety is hoping to build off a career year in 2020, and despite his youth, Bates has clearly ascended to a new level of leadership. That includes knowing the defense in and out.
At the conclusion of offseason workouts, Bates was impressed with how well the team’s free agent additions on defense adapted to their new defense in their first practices together.
“The guys that we brought in are very intelligent,” Bates said. “I know that they ran a couple of different things from where they came from, but how fast they picked it up and them asking questions is the main part of us installing.”
Bates is one of the few pieces that didn’t need changing after last year. Four new veteran starters were added to defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo’s unit. In the secondary alone, Bates and strong safety Vonn Bell will be playing with three new cornerbacks this year.
Roster turnover happens constantly, and the Bengals’ defense has seen many makeovers in recent years. But and early signs point to the new additions being capable of keeping up with their new leader.
“It says a lot about the guys Coach Taylor brought in here through free agency and the draft,” Bates continued. “There’s no egos, that’s the biggest thing I’m happy for. I’m taking a level up in terms of a leadership role and able to look at it differently.”
Keeping Bates happy should be a priority for the Bengals. By the time the season begins, they’ll hope to extend his contract and make him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league.
Watching this new defense grow around Bates will be an enticing story to watch in the coming weeks.