Jessie Bates’s underappreciated safety play has boosted the Cincinnati Bengals ever since he arrived in 2018. Bates has nine career interceptions, two forced fumbles, and has consistently been the brightest spot on some poor defensive teams. The Bengals’ standout is entering a contract year and plans to build off his fantastic previous seasons to lead the Bengals in 2021.
Jessie Bates is the NFL’s Most Underappreciated Safety
Pro Football Focus (PFF) just snubbed Bates when it released the best 50 players in the NFL right now. That same PFF, also gave him the highest safety grade in the NFL last year at 90.1. In 2020, Bates allowed a 42.3 quarterback rating, a 54% catch percentage, and just 5.08 yards per attempt. Pete Prisco from CBS sports is higher on Bates than most and recently noted “He is one of the more underrated players in the league. Bates plays in anonymity in Cincinnati, but please take note. He’s a heck of a player.” With some in league circles having differing opinions on Bates, the tape never lies.
Check the Tape
When looking at what makes an excellent free safety, Bates fits the bill in every category. Strong, fast, smart, instinctual, and a leader in the locker room. The tape is the hallmark of every NFL player, and some analysts realize just how special Bates is. Mike Santagata compares Bates’s play to NFL greats like Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu, and Troy Polamalu.
In this first clip against Mike Gesicki, Bates shows great leverage and the ability to stack up against tight ends.
Jessie Bates man coverage on Mike Gesicki pic.twitter.com/DoNiEztTCr
— Sans (@bengals_sans) December 8, 2020
This one shows the range of Bates and his ability to play center field in what truly sets him apart.
This is an insane play for Jessie Bates to make. He is playing the deep third in the middle of the field. He reads Minshew so well and has the range to go all the way from the right hash to nearly out of bounds to break up this deep ball to Eifert. pic.twitter.com/OCWS19KmTM
— Sans (@bengals_sans) October 8, 2020
Benjamin Solak from The Draft Network is also in the Bates fan club. He recently detailed why he thinks Bates is the best single-high safety in the NFL and said “Bates is able to attack the intermediate hole shots with his explosiveness and play recognition, and he’s able to discourage the deep outside shots with his physicality and long speed. Bates has an old-school vibe: sideline-to-sideline influence with punishing power.”
This final clip shows the fantastic instincts of Bates that allow him to flourish.
Jessie Bates triggering on similar clearout/dig combos from Y-Y Wing formations and, in both instances, beating the quarterback to the spot and missing the pick accordingly.
Few players I enjoy watching more than Bates. pic.twitter.com/N4r3oLLzV6
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) June 17, 2021
Leading a New Cincinnati Bengals Defense
Lou Anarumo has a multitude of new weapons at his disposal as he enters a critical third season as defensive coordinator. The Bengals have seven newcomers on the defense that will include a healthy Trae Waynes. They join forces with Sam Hubbard, D.J. Reader, Vonn Bell, and Bates. This defensive overhaul should be vastly improved from the last two seasons.
Bates is now another strong voice and leader in the locker room. He recently became the Bengals NFLPA representative and has also led the charge in gathering up players which resulted in 100% participation in OTA’s. Leadership is critical in the NFL and has been missing before Bates and Joe Burrow arrived. The duo is the best offensive and defensive players on the team and the most respected voices to lead them forward. As the Bengals revamped roster begins a new season, Bates is ready to take his stellar play to another level. The rest of the NFL is finally taking notice.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images