The Bengals overcame missing Vontaze Burfict last season for the first six games, can they do it again with his suspension.
Vontaze Burfict is the emotional leader on this defense. Unfortunately, the Bengals’ linebacker will be suspended for the first three games of the season, due to his hit on Antonio Brown in the Wildcard game and history. Burfict missing from this roster will be a loss to this team, but is it something they can overcome?
The Bengals opened up 6-0 without Burfict last season, who was out due to off-season surgery. The leadership by Andy Dalton and this offense really came to life for the first eight games of last season, which helped bridge Burfict’s absence, and gave this team life.
On the defensive side of the ball, Reggie Nelson, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and Adam Jones all helped the Bengals shut down the passing game and slow down run attacks. Vontaze Burfict’s absence was noticeable however against the Seahawks, when Thomas Rawls ran for 169 yards and a touchdown, the most yards given up on the ground all season by the Bengals.
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Vontaze Burfict created a ton of defensive opportunities both in the regular season and the Wildcard game, when he returned. In 10 games, Burfict had 74 tackles, two interceptions, and one sack. He made some important plays, including tracking down Le’Veon Bell in the first match up against Pittsburgh. It was a clean tackle, although Bell is still bitter about his season ending tackle.
In their Wildcard game, Burfict recorded one sack, one forced fumble, an interception, six tackles, two for a loss, and one pass deflection. His interception should have all but iced the game for the Bengals first playoff win in 25 years, but an unfortunate circumstance and unusual 90 seconds ended that hope.
Vontaze Burfict is the emotional leader and has the potential to take this teams play to the next level with just his presence. However, the Bengals have Karlos Dansby, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and many other players who can step up and lead this team to another solid start. It will however be interesting to see if the Steelers and Bengals can play nice week two, without Burfict.