Don’t Expect Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict to Be Dominant in 2015
Sep 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) against the Green Bay Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
As the offseason builds heading towards July’s training camp, the excitement for the coming season grows. For the Cincinnati Bengals optimism may not be at an all time high, but the intrigue remains as the organization could see numerous changes when 2016 rolls around.
For the Bengals, no player may be more important in such a make-or-break season than linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The team has a short list of players who are looking to return to form this season, which includes A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, and Tyler Eifert. But Burfict trumps each of these players due to his ability to quarterback the defense, a unit that could dominate if health doesn’t become a significant issue.
Some NFL personalities have speculated that Vontaze Burfict will be ready for the 2015 season in large part due to Burfict’s surgeon suggesting as much. But fans should temper their expectations for him in the coming season.
Like a couple of Bengals who have suffered significant injuries in recent years, Cincinnati will likely exercise caution when setting a timetable for Burfict’s return. It’s the smart move for the franchise, as Burfict is the cornerstone of their defense.
Vontaze Burfict has a great ability to read and identify plays pre-snap, and then communicate necessary audibles and realign fellow defenders to stop the opposing offense. Without this presence, the defense struggled to find a leader and the defense’s production suffered accordingly. The defense’s struggles highlighted the importance of Burfict and exactly what he offers the defense, and what they lose when he’s out.
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At the very least, exercising caution means Burfict will likely continue rehabbing during training camp next month. And just slow playing it a bit means Burfict may have to play himself into shape during the 2015. At worst, Burfict could land on the P.U.P. list (like A.J. McCarron last year) and won’t be able to play until the second half of the season when he’ll still need to play himself into game shape.
Either way, we’ve seen the year it took Leon Hall to return to form. We saw the year Geno Atkins needed before he could get back to his “scary” self. It’ll likely take Vontaze Burfict some time before we get to enjoy the Burfict we’ve come to know.