|Bengals LB Rey Maualuga has endured his fair share of struggles this season, but Marvin Lewis said he won't be moved out of the starting lineup. (US Presswire)|
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he's open to personnel changes entering the bye week amid the team's current three-game losing streak. One of those won't be at MLB, though.
LB Rey Maualuga began his critical contract year with a disastrous start but showed improvement the last few weeks. On Sunday night, however, he struggled again, including being far out of position on the decisive 32-yard run by Jonathan Dwyer that salted away the Steelers' 24-17 win.
Lewis gained his credentials as a linebackers coach and helped mold Ray Lewis into one of the greatest in the history of the game. He knows linebacker play and still believes in his current one.
"He didn't play as well yesterday as he played over the last couple weeks, but some of it, it looks like he's not playing as well because other people aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing and he's actually doing what he is (supposed to be) doing most of the time," Lewis said. "Unfortunately, the last run of the game he decides he's going to be Superman and get out of his responsibility. To the layman who's sitting there watching, or whoever is being critical of Rey, they're probably being overly critical."
Much of the criticism over the course of the season has been warranted. He's been exposed in coverage giving up more yards after the catch on passes he's in coverage on than any other inside linebacker in football, according to ProFootballFocus.com. That's prompted coaches to ask him to drop pounds midseason to be faster on his feet.
PFF also rates Maualuga among the top five inside backers in missed tackles (9).
In reality, had OLB Thomas Howard not gone down with a season-ending injury in Week 2, LB Vontaze Burfict, who has thrived replacing him in the outside spot, would have been given a chance in the middle. With LB Dan Skuta and other unproven alternatives, Lewis sees Maualuga as his best option in the middle of the defense.
"Nobody's going to tell me more about playing linebacker than what I know," Lewis said. "So there's a lot of good things he's doing. Do we want him to play better and be the best linebacker in the National Football League? I sure do. And we'll keep coaching him to be that."
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