George Iloka and his potential impact - Marrakech
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    vendredi 24 août 2018

    George Iloka and his potential impact

    George Iloka signed a deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday afternoon, giving them another starting-caliber option on the back end of their defense for the upcoming season. It is not often that a starting strong safety in the prime of his career hits the market this late in the preseason, but the Cincinnati Bengals decided it was best for their organization to let another talented player go for financial reasons, which is something that has had mixed results for them in recent seasons.

    Iloka and head coach Mike Zimmer have a relationship that dates back to their days together in Cincinnati when he was the defensive coordinator under Marvin Lewis and was the man who gave Iloka his first shot in the NFL after he was a fifth round pick in 2012 out of Boise State. He did not get much run in his rookie season, but started all 76 games he played in from his second year in the league until now.

    The initial reaction from fans will be that he is the guy that will step in and take Andrew Sendejo's job next to Harrison Smith, but with two weeks left of the preseason and a crash course of knowledge and getting up to speed on the way, Iloka is here to provide depth. Is it possible that he can upend Sendejo at some point? Perhaps it is, but this is more to boost the depth on defense more than anything.

    Behind Smith and Sendejo are Anthony Harris and Jayron Kearse, who are solid players in their own right, but there is certainly a drop off in a scenario where one of the starters is out. Iloka can come in and pick up the slack and he already has knowledge of Zimmer's defensive philosophy, so it is a natural fit.

    When discussing who could really be in trouble with Iloka's signing, certainly Harris and Kearse could move a bit closer to the roster bubble, but it is his former Bengals teammate in Terence Newman that could be a name that moves closer to the chopping block. Zimmer and company have toyed with the idea of giving Newman some run at safety to give him a shot to stick on the roster, which is still possible. However, it makes less and less sense to keep him around with the depth the team has at cornerback in Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes, Marcus Sherels and Holton Hill. It's possible Sherels or Hill do not make it through the preseason, but there seems to be more upside there with what they bring to the roster than a 38-year old defensive back. Kearse and Harris can play on special teams, so that could give them the edge as well.

    Iloka is a solid safety that will not "wow"anybody, but he is reliable and his tackling has improved since he entered the league. He does not force a ton of turnovers, but the Bengals let walk one of their most respected players on defense and a good locker room guy. The Vikings will gladly take that off of their hands.

    He could start at some point, especially with the new helmet rule affecting players like Sendejo, who has been suspended in the past for illegal hits. It is not a move that upgrades the starting lineup, but it certainly adds some more peace of mind when it comes to depth, which is something the Vikings sort of lack on that side of the football.

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