Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Players to Lock Up During Training Camp

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Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka (43) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2. George Iloka

On a roster that is littered with unheralded players, George Iloka may be the most underrated player on the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals seem to have an under-the-radar player who emerges every season, from Geno Atkins in 2012 to Vontaze Burfict in 2013 and Carlos Dunlap in 2014 (although Dunlap’s emergence pales in comparison to those of the previous two). 2014 was a down year for defense, so although Dunlap is the safer choice for an emerging defender, Iloka had a sneaky awesome year in 2014 that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Iloka broke out in 2014, tallying 74 combined tackles, 10 pass defenses (tied for fourth among NFL safeties) and three interceptions. Teaming up with the aforementioned Reggie Nelson, Iloka became a notable Bengal and an impact starter in the 2014 season.

Iloka’s 2014 stats were impressive, but his ability to “lay the wood” on opposing players was one of his best attributes. When Cincinnati played New Orleans, Iloka crushed Jimmy Graham with a devastating blow early in the game that forced Graham to head to the sidelines. When Graham returned to the game, he simply was not the same player; the Saints’ former superstar tight end came out of the game with a measly three catches for 29 yards and no touchdowns.

And when Cincinnati played Pittsburgh in Week 13, Iloka blasted Heath Miller with a shot that took the durable Steelers tight end out of the game. Miller finished that game with just one catch that went for a one-yard touchdown.

And with a talent in coverage to boast alongside his impressive toughness, Iloka is the real deal. Per Football Outsiders, Iloka had the highest success rate of any safety in 2014. And Pro Football Focus also sang Iloka’s praise, commenting on his elite coverage skills and improving run-stopping ability as a dubbed “secret superstar” on the Bengals.

"“Iloka allowed a reception just once every 51.8 snaps in coverage, the best mark in the league at safety.” -Pro Football Focus"

” Iloka even had a seven-game stretch in 2014 in which he did not allow a single reception.

And as he continues to improve, Cincinnati needs to be smart and sign George Iloka before his asking price skyrockets. Iloka is the next Geno Atkins/Vontaze Burfict-type player who will emerge for Cincinnati, and the team would be better off signing him before he puts together an even better season than he already played in 2014. This year will be huge for Iloka; expect at least four interceptions and plenty of game-changing hits come next season and hope that Cincinnati can re-sign him before the season starts.

Next: 1. The Best Player in Cincy