Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Names Bengals Fans Need to Know for the 2012 Season

Dan SnyderCorrespondent IJune 24, 2012

Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Names Bengals Fans Need to Know for the 2012 Season

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    In 2011, the Bengals leapt out of mediocrity and took the AFC by storm, making their first playoff appearance since 2009.

    But Cincinnati did fail to beat both of their division opponents, who finished ahead of them in the AFC North, going 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers.

    The Bengals are a young team with surprisingly few holes, but that doesn't mean there won't be any surprises this season in Cincinnati.

    With a great offseason and draft behind them, Cincy fans should be checking out a few new names who could help push the Bengals to be real contenders for the AFC North crown.

    Let's look at five of those guys.   

Taylor Mays, Safety

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    Mays is pretty well-known for his work at USC, but as a pro, he's never been able to really find a home on the field.

    At 6'3", 230 pounds, Mays struggled to stay on the field with the 49ers because of his inability to cover down NFL receivers. But now entering his second year with the Bengals, Mays looks like a different player and is apparently the favorite to be the starter in Cincinnati.

    Mays only recorded four tackles last season with the Bengals and looked lost on the field at times. This season, he's impressed coaches.

    His biggest competition looks like it will be rookie George Iloka from Boise State, who has a similar skill set to that of Mays, but with his experience and talent, Mays has all the talent to be a very good player for the Bengals this season.  

Mohamed Sanu, Wide Receiver

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    Last season, the Bengals saw an offensive explosion between rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. But despite their success, Cincinnati struggled to find a consistent No. 2 option for its rookie quarterback. 

    So in the third round of this year's draft, the Bengals were pleasantly surprised to see Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu still available and wasted no time picking him up. 

    Sanu is a great compliment to the field-stretching Green. He's a crisp route-runner and isn't afraid to go for balls over the middle, which will be a nice acquisition for a QB like Dalton, whose arm isn't the strongest. 

    Fans should get to know Sanu (and fellow rookie receiver Marvin Jones for that matter) because he could help open up this young offense even more and push the Bengals onto the same level as a few of their division foes. 

Roddrick Muckelroy, Linebacker

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    Who in the world is Roddrick Muckelroy?

    Well, for the first four-to-six games of the 2012 season, he could be the guy standing in the middle of the Bengals defense. 

    After yet another run-in with the law, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga could be facing a suspension from the NFL league offices and Roger Goodell. Cincy will have to replace his 91 tackles and three forced fumbles for at least the first quarter of the year. 

    Muckleroy should be that guy. 

    In his first two seasons, Muckelroy hasn't been much of a factor in the NFL. The former fourth-round pick has appeared in 14 career games and posted 10 total tackles. 

    Nothing is set on Maualuga and there's still the possibility that he won't be suspended. But with Keith Rivers now wearing Giant blue, it looks like Muckelroy will be the guy if Maualuga's unavailable. 

Jamaal Anderson, Defensive End

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    There's no doubt that to this point in his career, Anderson, a former No. 8 overall pick by Atlanta, has been nothing short of a bust. 

    He spent four seasons with the Falcons, accumulating only 4.5 sacks in 47 starts with the team. But last season with the Colts, Anderson showed some life, compiling three sacks in limited playing time. 

    What works to Anderson's advantage is the man he's currently playing behind on the Bengals' depth chart. Michael Johnson has shown flashes off the edge (six sacks in 2011), but hasn't been very good against the run and has struggled previously in starting roles.

    It's highly unlikely Anderson is going to live up to his draft expectations while with the Bengals, but what he can be is an important rotational player across the Bengals front.

    Anderson will have to ward off players like Derrick Harvey and the loser of the Carlos Dunlap/Robert Geathers competition for playing time, but he should help the team against the run and may just regain that pass-rushing prowess he had at Arkansas.  

Travelle Wharton, Guard

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    Wharton is hardly an unknown in the NFL, but since he's an offensive lineman, some Bengals fans might not be too familiar with his work. 

    They should be quite happy with this signing. 

    Wharton was a rock in Carolina for the last eight seasons, starting 99 games for the Panthers in his career. So when the Panthers thought it was time to say goodbye, the Bengals scooped him up. 

    He's a very versatile offensive lineman, having played both left guard and left tackle in Carolina. Wharton may not be a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he's a nice piece for the Bengals to plug in on an offensive line that already features prominent players like Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith and first-round pick Kevin Zeitler.

    Wharton could indeed be the piece that completes the Bengals' offensive line puzzle.