Mike Hilton Praises Jessie Bates: 'He's the Best Safety' in the NFL

This is big-time praise from one of the Bengals' biggest free agent additions.
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CINCINNATI — The Bengals' defense is hoping to take a step forward this offseason after adding proven veterans like Mike Hilton, Chidobe Awuzie and Trey Hendrickson. 

Hilton is familiar with Cincinnati after spending the first four seasons of his career in Pittsburgh. The 27-year-old played on one of the NFL's best defenses. He's hoping to take that experience and use it to buoy the Bengals back to relevancy this season. 

"They brought me here for a reason," Hilton said on Monday. "I want to be a leader on and off the field, so I know one starts in the classroom. And if I can have those guys trust me and know the winning mentality I can bring over, I feel like they'll follow my lead and we can turn this thing around." 

Hilton plans to lead by example, but that didn't stop him from praising Bengals safety Jessie Bates.

"He's the best safety in the game, he just doesn't get the respect he deserves. He makes just as many plays as Minkah (Fitzpatrick), Justin Simmons, all those guys," Hilton said. "The league is really starting to notice how much of an impact player he is."

Hilton would know what great safety play looks like after being teammates with Minkah Fitzpatrick for the past two seasons.  

Bates, 24, had a breakout campaign in 2020, finishing with 109 tackles, three interceptions and 15 passes defensed. If the Bengals' defense is going to take a big leap, they need Bates to lead the way on the back end. 

Why is he the best at his position? 

"Just his study habits. Especially at that position your mental game has to be off the charts," Hilton said. "I feel like that's where he starts. He puts himself in the right position to go make plays and then once the ball is in the air he has that mentality that the ball is his and it shows on film."

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