When a team has the No.3 overall ranked unit in the NFL, one may be inclined to think that finding one specific catalyst to the success would prove difficult. However, when I polled the Cincy Jungle contributors on the Defensive MVP this season, we all unanimously voted for linebacker Vontaze Burfict. For a couple of us though, it wasn't that easy.
You see, some of the contributors looked at the contributions of Geno Atkins (six sacks in eight and a half games) and his noticeable absence in the playoff game and realized that an argument can be made for him being the best player on this Bengals football team. The same could be said for Leon Hall, whose leadership and skill make him the glue in Cincinnati's secondary. We just found it tough to give the award to a player that missed about half of the season because of injury.
And when you look at Burfict's numbers and accolades in 2013, it was equally as tough for us not to give it to him. A Pro Bowl season where he led the NFL in tackles with 171 total tackles, to go along with three sacks, a forced fumble and two recoveries. He has become a three-down player and makes the defensive adjustments as both the weak side backer as well as shifting to the middle.
The value that the Bengals have received from a previously undrafted player has been outstanding and Burfict has quickly become one of those young players in a nuclei of other great ones that Cincinnati wants to lock up long-term.