May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (58) looks on during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Rey Maualuga has been the subject of fans’ ire for years now. He’s been criticized for being a one-dimensional player who is overpaid. He’s been criticized for being unable to effectively transition to the middle linebacker spot and for being a less than capable leader. Yes, Rey Maualuga has been criticized heavily over the years, and, at times, it was justified. The fans of the Cincinnati Bengals are anything but satisfied with what the veteran linebacker has given them over the years.
But much of that disappointment in Maualuga can be mitigated in 2015 because of a rule change. The NFL decided to alter its PAT rules this offseason. The decision could alter the result of games and effectively, the league going forward.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis feels this change puts the AFC North at a disadvantage due to the poor weather that often characterizes divisional games. Because of this, he expects many more two-point attempts in the coming season. Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, the rules have changed and now teams must deal with its consequences.
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The Bengals must begin to prepare for these circumstances, but not just on the offensive side of the ball. The defense will have to construct a game plan for the increased opponent attempts that Lewis expects. And one player will find a unique opportunity in these situations.
Rey Maualuga is built for such short-yardage situations. As the team’s primary run stopper, he’ll need to be a key cog on these plays, and especially against AFC North opponents who typically like to run the ball. Maualuga is also an excellent player to challenge offensive linemen near the line of scrimmage ensuring the Bengals get a strong push along the line; the key component to stopping such plays.
If Rey Maualuga proves to be an elite player when facing two-point attempts, he would likely earn back much respect from Bengals fans. His ability to play well both versus the run and in short-yardage situations means he’ll be a player to watch in 2015. His effectiveness in the coming year could be the difference in close games. It means Rey Maualuga gets a unique chance to fulfill some of the promise he once offered and the chance to regain the respect of many fans.