Predicting the Cincinnati Bengals' Future Hall of Famers
Only three representatives of the Cincinnati Bengals are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame: offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, wide receiver Charlie Joiner and former owner Paul Brown.
Could anyone from the current Bengals roster end up with a bust in the Hall and a gold jacket in their closet? That's hard to say.
The Bengals presently boast one of the younger rosters in the league, and though there are clearly talented players among them, it's going to take a prolonged period of success before any can be thought of as eventual Hall of Famers.
So, assuming that the Bengals continue on the path they forged in the 2011 and become one of the league's strongest teams for a number of consecutive years, these are the players who could find themselves one day in the Hall of Fame.
QB Andy Dalton
Quarterbacks are the darlings of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though it doesn't mean they have any easier of a path than other positions. It's simply that there are so many of them currently in the Hall—a reflection, perhaps, of the quarterback receiving much of the credit (and blame) for his team's win-loss record.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has a lot left to accomplish if he's to find himself someday inducted into the Hall. With just one season to his name, it's hard to determine what kind of quarterback he'll end up being once his career has wrapped. However, he's off to a solid start.
In his rookie season, Dalton completed 58.1 percent of his passes, for 3,398 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while absorbing 24 sacks and helped the Bengals along to a 9-7 record and a playoff appearance in a year when everyone had counted them out.
Dalton's contributions have led to a serious improvement in the Bengals' bottom line. If he continues to improve, then there's a very real chance he'll be leading Cincinnati to a Super Bowl in his lifetime; if he brings that number up to two and they win them both, Dalton will find himself in the Hall of Fame discussion someday.
OG Kevin Zeitler
Rookie offensive guard Kevin Zeitler has yet to even take the field as an NFL player, so it seems like quite the prognosticating reach to say he'll someday end up in the Hall of Fame, but bear with me.
While many decried the Bengals' passing up of fellow guard David DeCastro in the first round of this year's draft, ultimately, Zeitler is the better fit. He's a non-pulling zone blocker, which fits the Bengals' mold and will serve them well when it comes to breathing new life into their nearly nonexistent up-the-middle run game.
Zeitler comes from Wisconsin, a veritable factory of Pro Bowl-caliber offensive linemen. Enough Pro Bowls, enough improvement in the Bengals' running stats and a Super Bowl appearance or two over a 10-plus year career could result in Zeitler someday being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
DE Carlos Dunlap
Defensive ends are a fairly populous bunch in the Hall of Fame, especially 4-3 defensive ends like Carlos Dunlap, who are responsible for rushing the passer. With the passing game getting more and more explosive in today's NFL, those players most adept at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks will have the best shot of being though of as some of the NFL's best all-time defenders.
In two season in Cincinnati, Carlos Dunlap has racked up 14 sacks and two fumble recoveries, though he's yet to play a full 16 games. Even in the Bengals' rotational defensive line system, Dunlap has been a standout. Should he remain consistent, he'll be a cornerstone of the Bengals' ever-strengthening defense.
Should that defense become one of the league's most feared, that will have much to do with Dunlap's ability to bring pressure.
Again, the caveat remains that the Bengals must go to and win at least one Super Bowl for any members of the current roster to eventually reach the Hall. But if they do so while fielding the league's top defense, Dunlap is going to get much of the credit, and perhaps a bust in the Hall of Fame someday.
So which current Bengal do you think could someday reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Let me know in the comments below.
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