Jordan Evans got a lot of work for a sixth round rookie last season. Can he be the solution for the Bengals at the linebacker position?
The Bengals have a defense that looks resurgent, although they clearly have a need at linebacker. Especially with Vontaze Burfict out for four games, the team needs someone to step up internally. Nick Vigil is definitely a possibility, but Jordan Evans has been very impressive so far this offseason. Next to Preston Brown and eventually Burfict, Evans could be a really good fit.
Coming out of Oklahoma, Evans was already a well-rounded cover linebacker. He ran a 4.50 40-yard dash at the combine and flashed the corresponding technique and instincts. Evans’ only true flaw was his physicality, which dropped him to the sixth round for the Bengals last year. Even then, Evans seemed like a steal, and he’s already returned value on that selection.
In his rookie year, Evans put up impressive numbers. He played in 15 games and even started 4, which is a surprise for someone taken that late. He racked up 33 total tackles and deflected 3 passes. The deflected passes are a crucial part of Evans’ game – he’s quick enough and smart enough to cover elite receiving tight ends, allowing the Bengals to drop the safeties back in coverage.
However, Evans needs to show improvement heading into his second year to secure a high-usage role on the Bengals. He was PFF’s 85th best linebacker, which is a poor grade. Evans also did look physically overmatched at times. He’s looked sharp during camp so far, though, and seems poised to make that second-year jump. Bengals’ beat writer Paul Dehner, Jr. seems impressed by what he’s seen of Evans.
"Jordan Evans has been quietly consistent in his second season. Solid."
In fact, it’s possible it will be Evans who starts in Burfict’s stead. Vigil will start in his sets as the strong side linebacker, while Brown is locked in as the middle linebacker. Vincent Rey could be the guy, but he succeeds more as a middle linebacker, too. Evans is a perfect player to fill that weak side role for the Bengals for the first four weeks.
Evans could have a stellar second season if he improves his physicality. His speed is near-elite for a linebacker and his coverage skills may be the best of any linebacker on the Bengals. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin may find a way to use Evans as a pass rusher in some heavy blitz settings, too. If he can just become a little stronger, Jordan Evans has the versatility to make a big impact on the Bengals in year two.