The revamped linebacker unit will be a letdown
A big area of focus for the Bengals’ front office throughout the 2020 offseason was the linebacker unit. Through both free agency and the draft, Cincinnati completely transformed their group of linebackers. With the addition of veteran Josh Bynes and rookies Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Markus Bailey, many fans assume that the unit will be dramatically improved when the 2020 season comes around. While positive change is coming to the unit, don’t expect that to show for at least a year.
Second-year linebacker Germaine Pratt is poised to have a breakout year, but aside from the former NC State standout, the rest of the group could struggle. Rookie linebackers Wilson, Davis-Gaither, and Bailey all have great potential, but rookie years can be tough and it is unrealistic to expect three rookies to be good from the get-go. Veteran linebacker Bynes is solid, however, he has only played over 50% of his team’s defensive snaps in two of his eight seasons. While he is a solid player, he isn’t suited to be the team’s #2 linebacker and play a majority of snaps.
The linebackers are sure to improve from an abysmal 2019 season but are likely to be average at best. At worst, they could be a detriment to an otherwise talented defense. With so much youth at the position, they will likely be a force in a couple of years. For now, however, the youth could be a major problem.
There’s a good chance that one of the three rookies will have a solid first showing, but expecting three players at the same position on the same team to have good rookie years is about as likely as being struck by lightning three times. While the strong defensive line could bail them out at times, the linebacker unit will not be nearly as solid as fans are expecting in 2020.