As I start this player profile I do so knowing that I am talking about one of the leaders of the Bengals top 10 defense from a season ago. The 4 year veteran out of USC was second on the team in total tackles and number 1 on the team with 3 forced fumbles, one of which he recovered himself. He also led the team with assists so the bottom line is if it wasn’t Thomas Howard making a play on defense, it was Maualuga. This was the story last year and if the Bengals are poised to return to the playoffs this upcoming season, the burden lies again on the shoulders of Mike Zimmer, Rey Maualuga, and the rest of the Bengals defensive unit.
Rey will especially be counted on to continue to stop the run and force turnovers as Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 defensive scheme mostly calls for the linebackers to fill gap assignments, as opposed to a more blitz happy scheme that would send Maualuga and the other linebackers after the quarterback. This shows up in the statistics as well as Bengals linebackers accounted for 2.5 sacks as a unit last season, and Rey Maualuga had zero to his own credit. Although it goes without saying that as much as Rey and the other Bengals linebackers wish they could put more pressure on the Quarterback, being the anchors on a defense that only allowed just over 100 yards on the ground and barely over 200 yards a game through the air is rewarding enough, particularly when those efforts carried his team to an AFC Wild Card berth in a season that most “experts” considered wash for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now the expectations for this team are only on the rise after the considered improvements on offense throughout last season and during the off-season, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is all of a sudden a scoreboard team. This year’s team, just like last year’s team will be dependent on Rey Maualuga and the effort and turnovers caused by the 10th ranked defense a year ago. I look for Rey Maualuga’s performance this season to go mostly under the radar as it has for the past 4 seasons. I think he’ll have a career year this season in tackles, having his first season with over 100 stops.
Although I don’t expect Maualuga to make the Pro Bowl or be up for a Defensive Player of the Year award, not because he doesn’t have the talent, but instead he’ll remain under the radar on the national level because Mike Zimmer coaches a defense that doesn’t allow for egos and forces the players to work as a cohesive task force that prevents big plays and minimizes 3rd down conversions. That being said, there won’t be a more recognized player on defense on the sidelines or by the fans at Paul Brown Stadium than number 58, Rey Maualuga.