Back-up linebacker Vincent Rey has definitely made a mark on the Cincinnati Bengals defense, but has he done enough to hold onto his starting spot now that Rey Maualuga is healthy?
Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb - USA TODAY Sports
After Cincinnati Bengals Linebacker Rey Maualuga went down with an MCL Sprain against the New York Jets last month, the concern was not about replacing him with a trade or a free agency pick, but merely to get someone in as a placeholder. They knew already that the depth that they had was good enough to sustain the position long enough for a knee sprain to heal, so they just had to wait it out and then Maualuga could slot back into his position, where he had been having a career year.
Apparently Vincent Rey didn't get the same memo.
In the three games since Maualuga has been gone, Rey has amassed some 30 tackles, three sacks and an interception, numbers you don't normally see from a backup linebacker in such a short space of time. It seems that he was trying to make as much of an impression on the coaching staff as possible and although we won't know for sure until Week 13 against the San Diego Chargers, it seems to have worked.
Returning to the team that week, Maualuga could be looking at a decreased role in the defense, as Rey is on some sort of hot streak and there would be no sense in stopping him now. Over the last three games, he has averaged 69 snaps per game (he averaged 5.4 before Maualuga's injury) but the likelihood is that he will not go back to that little next week.
The Bengals historically are all about loyalty (the only reason that could possibly explain why they still give BenJarvus Green-Ellis more snaps than Giovani Bernard) so Maualuga will almost certainly see more snaps than Rey, but it will be a 'ceremonial' majority, meaning that he will probably get only a handful more, as they will be divided much more carefully now that they can see what Rey is capable of.
According to ESPN's Coley Harvey, Maualuga is not troubled about the likelihood of his decrease in snaps over the next number of games, stating:
"I know my strengths and what I can do. In that area, I'm not worried," Maualuga said. "I can only control what I can, see where I am and what they have me doing."
Maualuga is still one of the NFL's more Stalwart linebackers and taking over his position will likely not happen for Rey, but for now he can be happy in the fact that he has shown he is capable playing first team and the Bengals will reward him for it.
Simon Greene - Cincinnati Bengals Team Journalist for The Spot.
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