While the average NFL fan might not not know the name, anyone who truly follows the league or is a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals knows exactly who Burfict is. The second-year outside linebacker is making his case for the Pro Bowl while simultaneously establishing himself as one of the most feared tacklers in the league.
The Cincinnati Bengals possess the No. 8 pass defense in the league and the fifth-best run defense. The 9-4 AFC North leaders sport the No. 8 defense in yards allowed per game and the No. 6 defense in points allowed per game at just 18.8.
The Bengals defense has carried the team to many big wins this season. While their offense has not been bad, Marvin Lewis’ team is known for its defense.
Vontaze Burfict has been the Bengals' MVP so far this season, and it is not just because he is leading the league in tackles.
While the statistics certainly don’t hurt his case, you don’t have to be a statistician to realize that he's Cincinnati's most important player. He has the ability to find the ball and make a play when it matters most. In every Bengals game this year, Burfict has had at least one play that seems almost video game-esque.
In 2011, when I first learned of Burfict, I was immediately dying for my team, the New York Giants, to snag him after his college career ended. I initially stumbled across Burfict on YouTube, and his highlight tape at Arizona State was one of the most awesome things I’d ever seen.
Burfict seemed to just annihilate anyone who crossed his path. Unfortunately for Burfict, after an All-American season in 2010, an underwhelming 2011 season and mediocre pre-draft workouts made teams shy away. Burfict ended up going undrafted in the 2012 season. Luckily for Cincinnati fans, the Bengals took a chance on Burfict and signed him as an undrafted free agent.
Burfict went on to make the Bengals’ roster. Not only did he play in every game that season, he started 13 of them. Vontaze led the team with 127 tackles and made 31 other teams regret not taking a chance on him.
This year has been no different. Burfict leads the entire NFL with 139 tackles and will set a Bengals record for tackles if he keeps up this pace over the last three games. To put his number of tackles into perspective, Brian Urlacher only had more than 139 tackles in a season twice in his career.
Plus, Burfict still has three games to go. He has no fewer than six tackles in any game this season, so expect him to keep piling up the stats as the season comes to a close.
With the success Burfict has had in his two seasons with the Bengals, the 23-year-old has become a fan favorite in Cincinnati. It looks like he could be around for quite a while.
If you have yet to see Burfict play or don’t think he has been that productive, do some research. He’s one of the most exciting and productive players in the league. Whether he’s coming out of nowhere to make tackles or trash-talking everyone that crosses his path, it’s hard to not enjoy watching Burfict play.
The defense would not be the same without Burfict, and thankfully he has shown he is a durable player. Burfict is still one of the most underrated players in the league, but he should soon enough have a name that any NFL fan will recognize.
Guys like A.J. Green, Andy Dalton and Rey Maualuga may get more recognition league-wide than their teammate, but this team would not be where it is now without its leading tackler. Make no mistake, any player or coach who is playing Cincinnati is certainly not forgetting about the Bengals’ MVP, Vontaze Burfict.