The Cincinnati Bengals will be looking at plenty of their young guys to see who they could count on to take a big step and who could need some competition.
One player who came on at the end of the season that Pro Football Focus’ Jonathon Macri thinks will be the Bengals' early breakout candidate for next season is safety Jordan Battle:
Battle was one of the highest-graded college safeties heading into the 2023 NFL Draft, and while he fell to the third round and didn’t get a starting job until Week 11 of his rookie season, all of those strong metrics remained. Battle earned top-10 marks at his position, both overall (82.5) and in run defense (81.3), while also adding a 76.4 PFF coverage grade (17th). He should be locked in as a full-time starter to kick off 2024 and continue his impressive play for the Bengals.
The Battle pick in the third round was a bit surprising last season, and it had many fans confused, considering the team just went out and signed safety Nick Scott and spent a first-round selection on Dax Hill the previous season. However, it turned out to be a great pick considering Scott struggled to gel into a young secondary and struggled with missed tackles. Hill also had some struggles trying to fill Jessie Bates’ old role as the center fielder.
Battle was rotated in a few times and seemed to provide a spark before fully taking over for Scott later in the year. His tackling was a huge improvement, and it really showed up big at times. There is no doubt he will continue to be a big part of this Lou Anarumo defense now that he has had a full season under his belt.
The team may look into bringing in some competition or even just a third safety to help move Hill closer to the line of scrimmage to help cover tight ends, but Battle’s position as a starter seems almost certain going into the offseason.