Pro Football Focus names safety Jessie Bates Bengals most improved player
Jessie Bates led all National Football League safeties with a 90.1 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2020. Bates improved from a 61.2 grade in 2019. The grade Bates put up during the 2020 season was All-Pro and Pro Bowl worthy in 2020. PFF named Bates the Bengals most improved player in 2020.
Bates led Cincinnati with 78 solo tackles, 15 pass breakups and three interceptions in 2020. Only Bates fellow safety, Vonn Bell had more total tackles with 114 to 109 to finish first and second on the Bengals. The Bengals safety tandem and specifically Bates is one of the most underrated in the NFL.
In just his third season in the NFL, Bates has already been graded out as the best in the NFL by PFF. Bates was named first-team All-Pro by PFF in 2020 and second-team by the Associated Press. As the Bengals improve over the next few seasons, Bates recognition should increase. The Cincinnati defense needs to improve.
The Bengals finished 22nd in scoring defense, 26th in total defense, 19th in pass defense and 29th against the run in 2020. Those numbers led by Bell and Bates need to improve in 2021. Cincinnati needs to draft cornerbacks to upgrade the secondary and get the outside pass defense on par with the middle of the field
Jessie Bates 2020
"CINCINNATI BENGALS: S JESSIE BATES IIIBates should have gotten more national recognition — through both the Pro Bowl roster and All-Pro team — than he did. He took a step back in 2019 with a 61.2 PFF grade after a promising rookie campaign, but he made the jump all the way to elite in 2020 with a position-high 90.1 grade.Bates showcased that there are few players in the league who can compete with his range and instincts at the free safety position.His 15 combined pass breakups and interceptions this season were more than any other safety in the league despite him playing a deeper role where he didn’t see nearly as many passes come his way compared to someone who plays more in the slot and box."
Bates was only one of five safeties named by PFF as the most improved player on their team. The Baltimore Ravens Deshaun Elliott, Houston Texans Lonnie Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers Terrell Edmunds and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jordan Whitehead, were the other four. Bates has shown he has a high football IQ.
Leading the league in pass breakups is an impressive accomplishment for Bates. It shows that he is an elite safety in pass coverage. Bates and the Bengals were frequently in pass coverage with the ninth most attempts in the NFL against them in 2020. Bates is only signed through the 2021 season.
If the Bengals do not extend Bates during the offseason, he will be one of the most sought after free agents on the 2022 free-agent market. Keeping Bates to solidify and improve the Bengals defense will be critical for the future. Bates was originally drafted by Cincinnati 54th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.