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Logan Wilson And Germaine Pratt Extend Their Run Into Conversation For NFL's Best Backer Tandem

LB Germaine Pratt (left) and LB Logan Wilson listens during Training Camp at Kettering Health Practice Fields on Sunday, August 6, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
LB Germaine Pratt (left) and LB Logan Wilson listens during Training Camp at Kettering Health Practice Fields on Sunday, August 6, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

If Germaine Pratt is "Playoff P," then Logan Wilson is "Big Game Dub." Wilson and Pratt, married in the middle for at least four more seasons, are cut from the same burlap bag.

Neither of them would say 'Hat," if one was stuffed in his mouth.

"Ask them," said Bengals linebacker coach James Bettcher, the two-time NFL defensive coordinator who insists no other team has a tandem like his. "They write down how they're going to get better. 'Maybe my eyes, maybe my technique, or my fundamentals.' Constantly trying to sharpen."

In true Big Game Dub fashion, Wilson wouldn't give it up this week when asked if he'd share what he's working on:

"Nope, I'll keep it to myself."

But in the week the Bengals did plenty of talking by signing Wilson to a four-year extension a few months after his running mate signed up for three more, the equally spare-speaking Pratt cracked a window into their chemistry.

"We both love the game of football," Pratt said. "We both compete at a high level and each and every year we try to improve our game."

Nick Scott, the new Bengal and former Rams safety who had a close-up view of one of Wilson's momentous crunch-time plays, has no problem talking about some of the linebackers he's been around. In L.A., he played behind six-time All-Pro Bobby Wagner.

"The biggest similarity between Logan, Pratt, and Bobby Wagner is their preseason anticipation and ball skills," Scott said. "What separated Bobby Wagner was his ability to cover and key the quarterback and I think Logan and Pratt both have that. These guys have that same kind of gene in them. The sky's the limit with them. We know they're good in the run game, but they can get the ball in coverage as well."

Their position has mushroomed in importance during the 2020s as the game has completed its wide-open transition from smash-mouth to mouth-opening. Wilson and Pratt are those rare 245-pound linebackers who can both cover the pass and fill the box on those occasional but pivotal runs.

Since he came into the league in 2020, Wilson's seven interceptions lead all linebackers. In that same stretch, Pratt and Wilson have combined for 25 passes defended, third among tandems, according to Pro Football Reference. Only trailing the Bills' Matt Milano and Terrell Edmunds (33) and the Colts' Shaq Leonard and Bobby Okereke (31), and they are no longer tandems after the last free agency.

"I would say that's a big advantage," said Pratt as he heads into his fourth season with Wilson. "That's what you would want to do. Look at Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly (in Carolina). They played a good time together. We can keep on getting better. I'm just happy for him and grateful he got his reward. He did what he had to do to get the contract he deserved and what he wanted."

It's also what Dr. Lou wanted. Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has built his interchangeable defense around the versatility of Wilson and Pratt. In Bengaldom, linebackers are at a premium because the base defense is the nickel package with only two linebackers.

Anarumo can put Pratt on the line of scrimmage or play him off the ball in a stack, or he can blitz him, or he can cover a tight end. (It will be recalled Pratt came up with the biggest interception in Bengals history when he dropped into a zone to pick off the Raiders' Derek Carr at the goal line on the last play of the 2021 AFC Wild Card Game for Joe Burrow's first postseason win.)

But he can also drop Wilson in a zone, run a game with him inside as a third-down blitzer, play him off the ball, or fit him up in the run game. (It will be recalled in last year's AFC Wild Card Game it was Wilson who flew to the goal line to punch the ball out of the hands of Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley to begin Sam Hubbard's epic 98-yard fumble return.)

"Lou does a great job finding the times to get the right matchup," Bettcher said. "It's a matchup-based game when it comes down to those situational plays. (Pratt and Wilson) are anxious to get better. Their urgency to get better makes them true, elite professionals."

And, he would say, the NFL's best tandem. At the very least in the discussion with the 49ers' Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.

"I don't worry about all that," said Wilson, who does admire Warner on tape.

"Fred Warner is probably the best linebacker in the league," Wilson said. "He doesn't seem to have a weakness to his game. He's always playing the ball. He plays at a very high level. He makes everyone around him better."

That's how his teammates see Pratt and Wilson. Slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who has played the most AFC North games on this defense, looks at Pratt and Wilson and tackles DJ Reader and B.J. Hill and knows that is playoff strength up the middle.

"You can go nickel, you can go base or dime. Just having one of those guys on the field, you feel good about the middle of the defense," Hilton said. "I know both those guys, whether run or pass, will be in the right spot making plays. Both of them can run. The game has changed. You need your backers to run sideline-to-sideline and run down-field and we've got two of the best in the league at it.

"Logan wears the green dot (helmet) and he gets everyone lined up. Germaine does his part and there's overcommunication with what people might miss. It just makes it easier as a defense to have two guys get everybody aligned and assigned and ready to play."

Scott has a Super Bowl ring because on third-and-eight with 1:47 left in Super Bowl LVI, Wilson was draped so well on wide receiver Cooper Kupp that coaches can use it as a textbook look at coverage and still drew a holding call.

"I was just talking about that with B.J. (Hill)," Scott said. "He said, 'We have to have an honest conversation.' I said, 'B.J., I don't want to put you through the pain.'

"We got some favorable calls in that game and it could have gone either way. It showed Logan's ability to cover."

After being here for a couple of months, Scott believes Wilson and Pratt make up the league's best "1-2 punch," at linebacker. He's not only looking at the versatility, but the continuity. Indeed, Bettcher had Kevin Minter and Deone Bucannon for four years in Arizona and said it seemed like 'an eternity," in today's NFL.

"Their communication and leadership are excellent because they know Lou's defense like the back of their hands," Scott said. "There are times they're making checks on the field and Lou doesn't even have to talk them in the headset. They just know what Lou wants and they've done it for so long it's really like having coaches on the field in expecting what the offense is going to do.

"We have plays where I'll look at Germaine and we'll just have the same thought and change it up a little bit. Make it easier on everybody. Same thing with Logan. Give me some checks just because he sees the formation and has a feeling of what they're going to do. That type of football just bodes well. It creates trust."

It's almost like you don't have to say a word. Which suits Playoff P and Big Game Dub just fine.