The Cincinnati Bengals 2021 defense may have been one of the biggest surprises on a team that came out of absolutely nowhere. The previous two seasons they were one of the worst defenses in football, and that all changed during the run to the Super Bowl.
You don’t get a swing like that in production without a few underrated names slipping through the cracks. Today we will be shining a light on linebacker Germaine Pratt.
- Height: 6’ 2”
- Weight: 245 lbs
- Age: 26
- College: NC State
- Hometown: High Point, N.C.
- Experience: 4 years
Pratt is in the final year of his rookie deal, according to Over the Cap. His four-year deal was worth up to $4.083 Million, and he is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2022 NFL season.
Prat came to the Bengals as one of the first draft pick made by the new regime in 2019. He was a third round selection and has played in all but two games during his first three seasons.
He has often been a player that some fans pointed to as a scapegoat based off how he played early in his career. It was especially easy since the team hadn’t had a good linebacker since Vontaze Burfict’s prime. However, this label unfairly stuck to Pratt as he became a nice role player on this defense.
Fit with the Bengals
Pratt is the modern tone setting linebacker. Back in the day, teams would have linebackers that running backs or wide receivers would hate to get hit by. That archetype has had to adapt to still having sideline-to-sideline speed as well as being okay in coverage. What Pratt lacks in being just an average cover linebacker, he makes up for with his violent tackles.
It has become clear that Pratt’s days may be numbered with players like Logan Wilson, Markus Bailey and Akeem Davis-Gaither (all of whom were drafted a year after Pratt) are probably destined to take his spot. Before Davis-Gaither’s injury last season, Pratt and his younger counterpart were already splitting snaps. Logan Wilson also became the linebacker who was always on the field when he was healthy.
Davis-Gaither looked promising, but we saw issues come up specifically in the game against the New York Jets, where tackling was a big issue. That continued the next week against the Cleveland Browns. The team then entered a crucial bye week when they had to figure out how to get the defense back on track. One of the major changes was Pratt getting more snaps after Davis-Gaither’s injury, and he really set the tone.
Anytime Pratt got his hands on a ball carrier, they were stopped in their tracks. It was extremely rare for anyone to fall forward against Pratt. He also was very vocal before the snap getting defenders into the right position or calling out an offensive play that was coming. He of course wasn’t the sole reason for this defense turning back around, but he is a player who often doesn’t get recognized for his part in it.
Pratt’s a player who isn’t going to wow you with box score stats, but he is a player that if you go back and watch games again, you see his subtle impact. Of course, he will always be remembered for the interception against the Las Vegas Raiders Derek Carr to seal Cincinnati’s first playoff win in over 30 years. So whether he ultimately does move on after this season, he should always be remembered fondly by this fanbase.