Vontaze Burfict. This guy is heart of this defensive, he just doesn’t know it yet. Besides leading the NFL in tackles during his second year, Burfict is already coming up to the defensive line, pointing out offensive indicators, and moving around the coverages like a seasoned middle linebacker, despite the fact that he is still playing out at WILL.
His ability to diagnose plays and get to the ball carrier is so acute, players like Maualuga and Nelson have raise their game to keep up with his speed. If Burfict can keep his intensity without losing his head, he very well could be one of the most epic Bengals ever to wear stripes.
Again, quite a few guys are having great years defensively, Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, even Chris Crocker, but so far, has to be Vontaze Burfict. Burfict has been everything anyone could ask for as a linebacker and more. Not only does he make the calls for the defense, he leads the NFL in tackles.
Pretty impressive for a 2nd-year guy that no one wanted to take a chance on. Burfict has also brought an attitude to the Bengals defense that only adds to the difficulties opposing offenses have moving the ball against them. As Vontaze Burfict matures, he could become one of the best in the NFL.
It seems like you could make the case for someone else every week, as this if full of guys who can be game-changers any given week.
As far as who the next most consistent guy is, I’d have to go with defensive end Michael Johnson. He plays nearly every down, defends the run well, and always seems to be pressuring the quarterback or batting down passes.
The stats only read 2.5 sacks this year, but don’t let that fool you. He’ll make a positive impact in nearly every game he plays in. Pro Football Focus grades him as the second-best DE (+19.8) due in large part to his 20 QB pressures and 14 stops (tackles resulting in an offensive failure).