The Cincinnati Bengals have made it clear they want more safety help this offseason and got some drafting second-round pick, Jessie Bates.
Following the signing of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, the Cincinnati Bengals have made it known this offseason they wanted more help at the safety position. After reportedly making a strong push for safety Kurt Coleman, the team also brought in former San Fransisco 49ers safety Eric Reid for a visit just before the 2018 NFL Draft. Instead, the organization decided to draft Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates in the second-round.
The Bengals struggled to force turnovers last season, and that’s an area that Austin is emphasizing during camps is turnovers. Cincinnati had 14 total turnovers in 2017 (11 interceptions and three fumble recoveries), which ranked just one more than the league-worst the Cleveland Browns. Adding players that were known for ball-hawking skills and instincts was a priority this offseason. Fifth-round pick cornerback Darius Phillips fits that mold as well.
During Bates last two seasons at Wake Forest, he had six interceptions, and ten passes defended. Cincinnati wants to add more three safety sets to their new defensive scheme in 2018 after many teams in the league have proven very successful using it. It allows organizations to find versatile safeties that can play more than one role including run support inside the box, slot coverage, and tight end and running back coverage. All of which often gets covered by a linebacker, but safeties have better athleticism and speed to attack these roles better.
Cincinnati already has two starting caliber safeties on the roster with George Iloka and Shawn Williams still having multiple years left on their respected contracts. The duo had three interceptions a piece in 2016 but only had one a piece in 2017. Adding Bates who can man the top of the defense allows the Bengals to move Iloka and Williams around the defense to help cover up other holes or weaknesses. Including the linebacker group that is without star linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first four weeks and a significant dropoff from Burfict to other Bengals linebackers.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick has been impressed with Jessie Bates so far in OTA workouts. With Williams rehabbing an injury from last season, the team is being very cautious and keeping him out of the 11-on-11 drills. Bates is seeing plenty of snaps with the starters so far this offseason and taking in everything he can. Impressing Kirkpatrick, who has played with some solid Bengals secondary members like Reggie Nelson and Leon Hall is a good start.
“His awareness. His quickness. He made a play today, where a receiver caught the ball, caught the ball, and he was right there. He almost knocked it out.”
“Just to see the instinct of him, that’s what we need. We need instinctive guys in the secondary to make big plays. Everything’s not x’s and o’s. Sometimes you see the ball, you just gotta go get it.”
I don’t expect Bates to take a starting role from either Williams or Iloka this season, but do expect him to see a great deal of snaps this season. Teryl Austin wants to get more aggressive and cause turnovers and having Bates on the field absolutely helps that cause. With Williams and Iloka having multiple years left on their respected contracts, this could be a great trio of safeties for years to come.