Jessie Bates Looking To Take On Bigger Leadership Role For Bengals In Year Four

There may not be a more widely-debated first-round pick in the Mike Tomlin era for the Pittsburgh Steelers than safety Terrell Edmunds, drafted in 2018. Far from an outright bust in the vein of an Artie Burns or a Jarvis Jones, he also hasn’t achieved successes like David DeCastro or even Bud Dupree, who took time to develop. Many people are still trying to formulate an opinion on him.

It was almost universally regarded as an overdraft, though, when Edmunds was taken in the first round, even though there was late-developing buzz on draft day that he could sneak into the first 32, which, of course, he did. Still, many fans naturally would associate him with Jessie Bates III, the safety the Cincinnati Bengals would end up drafting that year, one round later (six picks ahead of the Steelers’ second-round pick, mind you).

Since entering the league, Bates has started all 48 games, registering 320 tackles with nine interceptions—three each year—31 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. While he hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl yet, he has become highly regarded, particularly by venues like Pro Football Focus. And he’s looking to put his name on the map this year, while taking a bigger role on the team.

It says a lot about the guys Coach [Zac] Taylor brought in here through free agency and the draft”, Bates recently said via the team’s website. “There’s no egos, that’s the biggest thing I’m happy for. I’m taking a level up in terms of a leadership role and able to look at it differently”.

Now the longest-tenured member of the secondary, with the rest of the starters consisting of free agent acquisitions over the past two years, and with consistent roster turnover elsewhere on defense, Bates is clearly one of the young bright spots, really, on the entire team.

“The main part for us was getting those new guys up to speed. That’s why we decided to come in”, Bates said of the veterans’ participation in the early portions of the offseason. “The guys that we brought in are very intelligent. I know that they ran a couple of different things from where they came from, but how fast they picked it up and them asking questions is the main part of us installing”.

That new-look secondary, of course, includes former Pittsburgh Steelers slot defender Mike Hilton. They also signed Chidobe Awuzie this offseason, while having previously signed Trae Waynes and Vonn Bell in free agency in 2020. Waynes missed the entire season, however, so this will mark his Bengals debut.

That also means Bates will be working with an entirely different cornerback group from last season, though he at least has one year in with Bell, originally a second-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2016. He registered 114 tackles and three forced fumbles in his first season with Cincinnati.

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