The Cincinnati Bengals Found a Diamond in the Rough Who Is Quickly Changing the Identity of Their Defense

The Cincinnati Bengals are riding high and feeling confident after handily beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. Zac Taylor’s squad is off to a 2-1 record to open the season and is tied for first place in the tightly-contested AFC North.

The Bengals defense turned heads with their dominant performance on the road in Pittsburgh. The unit features several young players, one of which is emerging as a surprising playmaker.

Logan Wilson didn’t play at a Power 5 school in college

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Logan Wilson with the No. 65 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Casper, Wyoming native was lightly recruited out of high school but committed to play college ball at the University of Wyoming.

Wilson played wide receiver and defensive back at Natrona County High School before transitioning to linebacker at Wyoming.

The second-year linebacker was a productive college player, recording 409 tackles, 10 interceptions, seven sacks, and five forced fumbles in four seasons with the Cowboys. He was a captain for three years, so the leadership was there.

When assessing prospects, many analysts look at the level of competition on a school’s schedule. Wyoming competes out of the Mountain West Conference, so while they don’t play major college programs regularly, their schedule usually features some quality opponents.

No matter the school, most college players experience a learning curve when making the jump to the NFL.

Wilson is developing into a solid player for the Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson makes an interception.
Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson runs after intercepting a pass against the Steelers | Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Logan Wilson appeared in 12 games as a rookie, making two starts. He finished the 2020 season with 33 tackles, three pass breakups, two interceptions, and one sack.

After gaining valuable experience in his first year, Wilson stepped into a starting linebacker role in 2021. He’s already made his presence felt on the field, too.

The 25-year-old enjoyed a breakout showing in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears, albeit in a loss. Wilson led the Bengals in tackles with nine and recorded an interception.

He followed it up with another stellar performance against the Steelers. Wilson recorded 14 tackles, which led all players. He also recorded two interceptions.

The second-year linebacker became the first player in franchise history to record two interceptions in a single game since Darius Phillips in Week 17 of 2019. Wilson also is the first Bengals linebacker to accomplish that feat since Vontaze Burfict in 2016.

Wilson currently leads the NFL in interceptions through three weeks.

The Cincinnati Bengals defense is much improved in 2021

The Cincinnati Bengals ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in total defense for the 2020 season. Under defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, the unit currently ranks No. 6 heading into Week 4.

The Bengals defense has allowed just 54 points through three games, which is impressive considering today’s NFL is driven by high-powered offenses.

Cincinnati stunned Pittsburgh in Week 3, and the defense played a huge role. This defense features several rising young talents, including Wilson, safety Jessie Bates III, and defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson.

In recent years, the Bengals defense hasn’t been known for its playmaking ability. Wilson’s unique skill set is helping change that identity. “I credit a lot of that to not really playing linebacker until I got to the college level,” he told The Athletic. “I kind of developed my ball skills as I was growing up.”

Wilson also knows what flying around the field can do for a defense. “If you’re always running to the ball, you’re always going to have a chance to make plays on the ball,” said the linebacker. “That’s something I’ve always prided myself on, and I will continue to do so.”

The season is still young, but the Cincinnati Bengals don’t appear to be pushovers on either side of the ball.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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