December 2, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga (58) after a 20-13 win against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Rey Maualuga stands in the middle of the defense, his senses working hard to take in every piece of information available, trying to diagnose the coming play. At the snap, he goes into action as the opposing tight end cuts toward the middle of the field. The quarterback sets and throws, aiming to the spot just to the middle linebacker’s right. He starts in that direction, planning to knock the ball to the ground, forcing a punt. At the last second, the tight end passes just in front of Maualuga, arms extended, and pulls the pass in for a first down, keeping the drive alive.
Cincinnati Bengals fans know that scene all too well, having seen it, and others like it, for four seasons. Whether it’s allowing a catch that gives the other team a fresh set of downs, or a misplayed run that sees him out of position, fans have had their fair share of disappointment in Maualuga’s play. They were ready to move on this offseason, and were nonplussed when the team re-signed him then distraught when he was named as the likely starting middle linebacker again for 2013.