10 Bold Predictions for the Bengals’ Season in 2020
Jessie Bates III will lead the NFL in interceptions
The Bengals’ completely revamped their secondary in the offseason, dishing out big bucks in free agency to bring in established names at cornerback and safety. However, returning safety Jessie Bates III should be expected to have the biggest year of his career. I would go so far as to predict that he might just lead the NFL in interceptions.
This seems like an outrageous prediction, but it actually is not unrealistic. In each of his first two seasons, Bates has had three interceptions. He has put up these numbers despite being a part of one of the weakest defenses in the entire league across that span. Bates has succeeded in spite of the defensive woes around him. In 2020, the defense around him looks to be much stronger.
With a revamped secondary, four new additions to the linebacker unit, and D.J. Reader added to the defensive line, the state of the Bengals’ defense is better than it has been in years. Returning players with promise should be the biggest beneficiaries of this new defensive look, Bates should be one of the prime examples of that.
For Bates to lead the NFL in interceptions, he would have to at least double his total from each of his first two seasons from 3 to 6, and even that might not be enough. While this may sound like a tall task, it is not ridiculous to think that he could do it.
Bates had a decline in play in his second season according to Pro Football Focus, with a 61.4 overall grade and a 64.9 coverage grade. These numbers were disappointing compared to his rookie grades, where he was given a 79.9 overall grade and an 80.9 coverage grade.
This decline should not fall on Bates’ shoulders, though. When playing on a 2-14 team with one of the worst defenses in the league, your play is very likely to decline with the rest of your team. With an improved team in 2020, Bates play should reach heights it never has before. While it’s a bold prediction, he may just lead the NFL in interceptions.