Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Rey Maualuga is struggling mightily this season. As a middle linebacker, Maualuga simply does not have what it takes to be a solid starter in the NFL.
Maualuga is constantly seen over pursuing the running game while leaving gaping holes up the middle of the field. He constantly struggles to get off his blocks, and when he does, he is not a sure tackler in space.
Rookie Vontaze Burfict is proving himself to be one of the best players on the Bengals defense and has recorded double-digit tackles in three of the five starts that he has been given this season.
Burfict is not in his natural position at middle linebacker, instead he is playing the WILL position. Even with little experience at the position, Burfict seems to be everywhere on the field making plays and is a very sure tackler.
This being said, there is one thing the Bengals should strongly consider: benching Maualuga.
If they do this, they can move Burfict back to his natural position in the middle where he potentially can be even more dominant than he has been on the weak side. Manny Lawson is a stable player on the strong side and will keep getting starts in that position.
This will now leave a hole on the weak side and there are a number of ways to fix that with current personnel. Vincent Rey is the backup behind Burfict currently on the weak side. He is still learning and can provide a limited number of snaps per game to spell the starter at the position.
So, who is the starter on the weak side? Dan Skuta. Skuta has been very versatile at linebacker during his days as a Bengal. He specializes on the strong side, but has played at middle linebacker in a pinch.
If Skuta can be versatile enough to play the middle linebacker position, there would be plenty of time to learn the weak side over the course of the bye week.
Skuta would not have to play every snap in the game as he can be spelled by the aforementioned Rey. Also, pass rush specialist Dontay Moch can also be brought in on passing downs.
There is no chance to trade Maualuga based on his play thus far and the fact that he is in a contract year. The Bengals can also not afford to cut him because of the lack of depth at the position. Benching him should be the way to go and, who knows, it may just ignite the fire that has been missing in him since his rookie season.