Bengals’ Winners and Losers vs. Falcons

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Sep 14, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka (43) intercepts a ball intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas (83) in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati defeated Atlanta 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Winner: George Iloka

During his first season as a starter in 2013,  George Iloka displayed the kind of skills that make for a solid safety in the AFC North.  As a solid tackler and aggressive safety in the box, he possesses the type of skill and mindset that would help this team deal with the division’s many powerful runners.  But many fans questioned whether or not Iloka possessed enough pass-defending skills to help the Bengals deal with a league that increasingly emphasizes the pass.  On Sunday, Iloka began to address these concerns with stellar play against the Falcons’ plethora of talented receivers.

Iloka recorded three pass defended and two interceptions on the day.  He saved two touchdowns by using his 6’4″ 220 pound frame to break up a Julio Jones catch in the end zone and by intercepting a Matt Ryan pass on the Bengals own goal line (see highlight).  It’s this kind of ball-hawking skill that fans and coaches were hoping to see in Iloka.  Displaying this kind of talent and awareness against such a potent passing offense was a very encouraging sign for the young safety.  He has the size, speed, and toughness to deal with any responsibility whether it’s defending the run game, ensuring coverage in the deep part of the field, or covering one of the league’s several pass-catching tight ends.  If Iloka continues to play like this throughout the season, I’m not sure opponents will be able to find a weak spot in this defense.