That left Iloka relegated to spot duty on special teams, and rarely got on the field for defensive snaps. He played in seven games (Games 1-4, 7 and 9-10) and had two special teams tackles. He was inactive for Games 5-6, 8 and 11-16, so you can see he didn’t get on the field much as a rookie.
But safeties typically take a year to fully grasp Mike Zimmer’s defensive system, and with clements and Crocker not being re-signed, Iloka is in a great position to get quality reps at starting safety during camp. Perhaps, the Bengals chose to let those two walk due to their confidence in Iloka to step up and get significant playing time this year.
So what should fans expect to see from Loka in his second NFL season? First, he has to make the roster. As of now, the Bengals have Tony Dye, Jeromy Miles, Taylor Mays, Shawn Williams and Reggie Nelson at safety. The Bengals will likely keep four, maybe five safeties on the final 53-man roster.
Assuming Williams and Nelson are roster-locks, that leaves iloka to battle Miles, Mays and Dye for 2-3 roster spots. Miles should be considered a shoe-in, as he is a valuable asset on special teams, and could conceivably challenge for the starting spot.
Expect Iloka to be on the final 53-man roster, and he has the potential to be not a only a quality reserve safety, but should be considered a darkhorse candidate to start alongside Nelson in Week 1 vs. the Chicago Bears.