Is George Iloka The Next Breakout Bengal?

Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

George Iloka has been a solid player, since entering the league in 2012. Is he ready to take the next step?

Safety is one of the most versatile positions in the NFL. They’re expected to cover deep, rush the passer, stop the runner, and even man up on a receiver occasionally. They’ve got to be smart, quick, tall, and physical. Players like this don’t come around often. And the Bengals may have just locked one up for a while.

At 6’4″ and 225 pounds, George Iloka stands out in a crowd. Even if that crowd is made up of other NFL safeties. 

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After sitting out his rookie year, Iloka was named the Bengals’ starting strong safety in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since. He’s started every game he’s been healthy for, since his second year in the league. He’s missed only four games to injury in that span. He’s always been a solid contributor. But, is he ready to take the next step?

All signs point to yes.

Although he doesn’t get much recognition due to NFL interception-leader Reggie Nelson, Iloka has been playing at top ten strong safety level for some time. His freakish frame and long arms give him the ability to unexpectedly snag interceptions from underneath and win jump-balls over the top. Sometimes, even in the same game.

Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Iloka is mentally sharp as well. In a defense full of wild characters like Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict, Iloka sticks out as a playmaker with a level head. He doesn’t burn the Bengals by taking chances on play-action and jumping on pump-fakes. Iloka stays home in coverage and gets the job done.

But don’t let his calm demeanor fool you. George Iloka can hit like Kam Chancellor. He forced two fumbles in just his first season of play. And just look at this tackle on Cecil Shorts. Iloka has power to match his size.

While his ability to wrap up runners has been questionable at times, Iloka’s build gives him the potential to be a quality run-stuffer. With their addition of Jim Haslett to the coaching staff, the Bengals have given Iloka a hard-nosed mentor to help with tackling.

With veteran free safety Nelson out the door this offseason, Iloka is slotted to take on a much bigger role in the Bengals defense. His play will set the precedent for the younger safeties in the locker room. Luckily for the Bengals—entering his fifth year in the league—Iloka should be hitting his prime. The future is brighter than ever for the Bengals’ defense.

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