Weight: 248 lbs
College: Arizona State University
Hometown: Corona, CA
Experience: 3 Years
If you have turned on a Bengals game the last two years, you know who Vontaze Burfict is. He led the team in tackles for the last 2 years. In 2013 he lead the team by nearly 100 tackles, and more importantly, led the team by 62 solo tackles. He doesn’t miss in the open field, and that is extremely clutch.
Burfict finished the year with 174 tackles, 114 solo, 3 sacks and a forced fumble. He is the most important guy on the defensive side of the ball. He is in charge of calling all the plays and getting people lined up correctly, something Maualuga struggled with.
Most astonishing with Burfict is where he was drafted, or for that matter, that he was not drafted. He was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school on both Rival and ESPN’s rankings, and was the No.1 MLB recruit in the country. His attitude, penalties, weight gain, poor pro day, and terrible combine left a sour taste in many teams’ mouths.
This year, we can expect that Vontaze will be back at his WLB spot barring a major plague of injuries at LB before the season. So what can the else can King Tez do to make himself better in 2014? It will be hard for him to add much more to his 174 tackles from 2013, but he could improve a bit in his pass coverage.
His biggest issue is still penalties, and by that I mean he needs to work on eliminating them. I do think that referees target him and he gets a few cheap ones each year that totally bogus, but some he definitely deserves. Having James Harrison to learn from last year really helped him to walk that fine line between being intimidating and being penalized.
As his linebacker coach Paul knew how to get the most out of Vontaze, this year will be no different. Paul will lean on Vontaze to be his eyes and ears on the field, consulting with him for in game adjustments.
When Thomas Howard went down with a torn ACL in Week 2 of 2013, 3 days before the next game, Guenther had to scramble. Take your best athlete and teach him a new position, how he did that is just remarkable. He took to the gym at Paul Brown Stadium with chairs to teach Tez the basics of playing WLB.
Guenther is reportedly the one that was the mastermind of most of the exotic blitzes that Zimmer ran, so expect to see Tez blitzing more this year. His instincts make him great and it is the reason that opposing offenses fear him, he finds the ball and often.
He is so important to this teams success because he makes plays that swing the momentum of the game, like the forced fumble TD versus the Browns. That game had a chance of going sour fast with the early INTs by Dalton, but the defense quickly took the wind right out of the Browns’ sails.
My prediction 160 tackles, 105 solo, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions.