CINCINNATI -- Rey Maualuga hates talking about himself.
He especially dislikes uttering his own name if it happens to be used in the same breath as any variation of the word "savior."
As much as that might annoy him, though, the linebacker could very well be part of the solution to the Cincinnati Bengals' recent run-stopping woes. As they try to improve their horrid rushing defense against one of the NFL's hottest ballcarriers Sunday, they will turn to Maualuga to help clog the second-level running lanes and turn the New Orleans Saints into a one-dimensional, pass-only team. Over the past three games, Saints running back Mark Ingram has averaged 141.3 yards on the ground.
"Obviously, if Rey comes back it will be a big help," defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said of the recently injured linebacker who was listed on Friday's injury report as probable. "That will clean some stuff up for us. A year ago, look at the runs and a lot of the same stuff the linebackers cleaned up."
With Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict among the many Bengals defenders to miss multiple games with injuries this season, Cincinnati's defense has had trouble time getting into any kind of rhythm. Communication has been a challenge, too. As some of the injured start getting healthy, the Bengals anticipate better play than their 30th-ranked unit has displayed in recent weeks.
"Obviously Rey can make plays, but more than that, the mental aspect, the understanding of what we want to get done front-wise, it's important to have the experience that he has," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "One thing he's very, very good at is he's a smart guy. He's a good extension of Paul. We've been missing kind of both those guys with he and Vontaze being out at the same time. Rey brings that mental aptitude back, as well as making the plays through the middle of the defense."
Maualuga has been out since Week 6 when he suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the Bengals' overtime tie with the Panthers. In the games he has missed, the Bengals have allowed an average of 145 yards per game. They had given up an average 141.4 in the five he played before the injury.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, 59 percent of Maualuga's snaps this season have come on rushing plays. Of his 19 tackles, 13 came during runs.
When Maualuga was told this week that the Bengals ranked a few spots lower in rushing defense than he originally assumed, he was caught off guard.
"So 31st?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm not saying I'm the guy, that I'm going to be the one, but in my mind, I have all the confidence in the world that I'm going to do my job and be the best linebacker out there," Maualuga said. "All I can say is, 'We'll see.' We'll see what happens, but I'm just glad to be back and out there with my teammates."