Cincinnati Bengals: Latest Updates and Opinion on Position Battles
Coming off a postseason appearance in the 2011-2012 season, the Bengals did not have many holes to fill. They drafted very well to fill the holes they did have and are trying to figure out who gives them the best chance to win.
Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com reported earlier that the team extended the contract of coach Marvin Lewis, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Continuity in the coaching staff allows the players to play in the same system for multiple years.
Lewis has yet to win a postseason game since taking over in 2003, but the future looks bright for his team.
The release of the depth chart (via Bengals.com) gives fans a good idea of who will be playing in the preseason, but it is not a good indication of who will start in the regular season. Rookies have not had time to prove themselves, so fans should expect changes by Week 1.
Position battles will continue to heat up as the preseason moves along, and the team will begin to take shape.
No. 2 Receiver
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The biggest position battle heading into camp is the No. 2 wide receiver position.
A.J. Green will be the No. 1 receiver, but it is unclear who will start opposite him. The team has a handful of options to choose from, and it may take all preseason to settle on a starter.
Brandon Tate, who was acquired the week before Week 1 last season, has the inside track for the other starting receiver position. He was listed as the second starter on the depth chart, but he has competition behind him.
Although he is slated to be a starter, Tate did not catch a single pass last season. He was used exclusively on special teams as a returner. His speed will allow him to be a deep threat, but he will still need to earn a spot in the lineup.
Armon Binns and Mohamed Sanu are also competing for the position, and they have even less experience than Tate. Binns was signed a few weeks into the season last year, and he did not have a single catch or see much playing time.
Sanu is a rookie with high expectations, so he could be eased in to the starting lineup. The first-year player has great hands and could make an instant impact in the offense.
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While Tate has the edge for the No. 2 spot, the other receiver positions are up for grabs.
If Tate holds on and wins a starting spot, Sanu will grab one of the next receiver spots.
Rookie Marvin Jones is a great route-runner and will be given an opportunity to get on the field. He was not a high pick in this year's draft, but the team is hoping to get production out of him. Sanu and Jones are likely to take two of the receiver spots, so the other receivers have to battle to make the team.
Jordan Shipley is coming off an ACL injury that occurred in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns last season. He is not listed high on the depth chart, but he was the slot receiver until he went down with an injury.
Although he does not have best numbers, Shipley has the most experience out of any receiver on the team. The team will slowly work him back into the mix, and he should be back in the slot position.
Armon Binns and Andrew Hawkins will likely battle for a spot on the team. Neither player has much experience, so preseason performance will be important.
Cincinnati needs receivers to step up and help A.J. Green. While quarterback Andy Dalton made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, he needs to improve as a passer. The receiver position will be improved in 2012, and the team will rely on youth to get the job done.
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Tight end Jermaine Gresham made the Pro Bowl last season, and his numbers will continue to be impressive. However, the team is in need of a good No. 2 tight end.
Donald Lee came in last season and was used sparingly. As of now, he is the backup tight end to Gresham. The 31-year-old (soon to be 32) is a solid veteran but does not provide much on offense at this point in his career.
The Bengals drafted Orson Charles in the 2012 NFL draft, and he is expected to be a playmaker. His blocking needs to improve, but he can be a second tight end in a West Coast offense. The team can try to copy the New England Patriots and use two tight ends with a bunch of possession receivers.
Like the rookie receivers, Charles is not listed near the top of the depth chart. The preseason will allow him to showcase his skills, and he will quickly move up the ranks.
As a fourth-round pick, the tight end will not be expected to be the main tight end. Gresham is a versatile player, and Charles is extremely athletic. Their potential is huge, but it will take some time for Charles to fit into the system.
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The defensive line relied on rotating players during games last year, but they will not be as deep this season. Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker left during free agency, so the team lost some of its key members.
At defensive end, the Bengals have two of the most athletic players in the league. Michael Johnson will start on the right side, but the left side is up for grabs. Although Carlos Dunlap is the favorite for the job, Robert Geathers will compete for the spot.
Dunlap missed some time last season with injuries, and Geathers stepped in to fill the hole. Dunlap is the more talented player and can get to the quarterback. In his last 18 games, he has recorded 13 sacks.
As long as he stays healthy, the Bengals will continue to have one of the best lines in the NFL. Dunlap, Johnson, Domata Peko and Geno Atkins can all get to the quarterback. Atkins had a breakout season last year, so the defensive line is continuing to mature.
With less depth this season, Dunlap will need to stay on the field more this year. He can't afford to get injured and miss time.
The 23-year-old defensive end will continue to grow as a player, and the Bengals defense will remain one of the best in the league as Dunlap gets better.
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The Bengals have a very deep secondary, but they need their cornerbacks to step up.
Leon Hall is recovering from Achilles injury that cost him the second half of last season, and Nate Clements will start alongside him. After those two veterans, the team does not have a proven corner.
Terence Newman and Jason Allen joined the team in the offseason, but the veterans are not shutdown corners.
After recovering from injuries and playing a lot on defense last season, Adam Jones will see some time at corner this year. He is more useful as a punt returner. Cincinnati has five cornerbacks capable of playing well, so Jones will not be expected to play defense as much this season.
In the draft, the Bengals drafted Dre Kirkpatrick with the No. 17 pick. The rookie was supposed to come in and play right away. However, Dan Hanzus of NFL.com reports Kirkpatrick will miss the preseason and likely the start of the regular season with a fractured knee.
He could have been part of a dynamic trio of cornerbacks, but he will need to catch up quickly when he recovers from his injury. He is not currently listed as a starter on the defense, although that is likely because of the injury.
The top four cornerbacks (Hall, Clements, Newman and Allen) are set for the time being, and the depth chart will not change at this position until Kirkpatrick is healthy.