6 Cincinnati Bengals Players Who Will Surprise in Training Camp
Cincinnati Bengals training camp is upon us, as is the second time the team will appear on HBO's Hard Knocks series.
Each year there are surprises with the Bengals during camp. That notion will be further intensified this year under the additional cameras, which will give even more perspective on players who are shocking both the coaching staff and media.
There are plenty of known commodities in Cincinnati. The team and fans know what they have in most of the starters. Is it really a surprise if a high-profile rookie like Tyler Eifert is impressing? Probably not.
What can be surprising, especially for fans, is when names they are not familiar with end up impressing. In the following slideshow, we'll attempt to nail down some potential surprises in camp so fans are not caught off guard.
Let's take a look.
By now, Emmanuel Lamur is a bit of a known commodity if you're a frequent reader of Bleacher Report as we have continued to peg him as a breakout star for Cincinnati.
The logic goes like this—last year's starter at weak-side linebacker was Thomas Howard, who finds himself still floating on the free-agent market. Lamur saw plenty of snaps last year in passing situations despite being an undrafted rookie.
With Vontaze Burfict impressing in the position last year and looking more suited for the role in the middle, Lamur is the obvious athletic candidate to take over at WLB.
Lamur will impress in camp. Coaches will sing his praises as did Benglas.com beat reporter Geoff Hobson during OTAs.
HBO will act like Lamur is a surprise, but if you read this, you'd know it has been a long time coming.
Rookie receiver Cobi Hamilton is another guy who didn't take long to impress the coaching staff during OTAs.
Expect him to do more of the same in training camp.
The Bengals are absolutely loaded at wide receiver to the point where the top four positions on the depth chart are virtual locks barring injury. With the way Hamilton is impressing already, he could have the fifth and possibly final spot locked down as well.
Anytime a receiver like Hamilton—who is supposedly on the bubble—gets praise like this from an offensive coordinator (Jay Gruden), it's a sign of more good things to come. Via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, Gruden said:
He'll challenge to make the squad and become a player. Cobi's an exciting guy. He's bigger than I thought he was. He's taller. He's got good stride to him, he's got good hands, he's tough. In Arkansas he ran a lot of crossing routes so we knew he wasn't afraid to go across the middle. We like Cobi. We're impressed with what he's done so far.
Hamilton is already surprising, but under the bright lights of HBO's hit show, he'll shine even brighter.
You've probably heard this before if you follow the team from the Queen City, but cornerback Brandon Ghee is a name that could blow some folks away in training camp.
Ghee has battled injuries over his two years in the league and has failed to be active in more than seven contests in one season.
He missed all of last season with a wrist injury that became infected and threatened his career, as Sammy Batten of the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer detailed.
Still, Ghee remains one of the most gifted corners on the roster thanks to his blend of athleticism and awareness. He's a bigger corner at 6'0" who has made a habit of flashing his ability before succumbing to injury.
Ghee is one of 10 corners on the roster entering the final year of his deal at the age of 26. Once more he'll impress in camp, but his health will be the real surprise.
It's no secret the Bengals are developing a penchant for taking undrafted rookies and turning them into key contributors.
That's what happens when you turn the keys over to someone who actually knows what they are doing (ahem—Marvin Lewis).
Onterio McCalebb could be the next undrafted star in Cincinnati.
McCalebb spent his days at Auburn playing running back, but his size at 5'10" and 170 pounds won't hold up. Instead, Cincinnati is trying him at cornerback, which he played some in high school.
The real reason McCalebb will shock fans, staff and media alike is because of his return skills. His shiftiness and speed will allow him to sneak onto the roster. Heck, Jay Morrison of The Dayton Daily News says his transition to corner has been going well, too.
Versatility is the name of the game, and there may not be a player more versatile than McCalebb with all the unique things the coaching staff could ask him to do. Watch for him to surprise.
It's not often you will hear about a seventh-round rookie impressing in training camp with an NFL team, but that's exactly what offensive tackle Reid Fragel out of Ohio State could do with Cincinnati this year.
Fragel is a converted tight end who held up well enough as the starter last year before taking a dive down the draft board.
You'll hear more than you'd expect about Fragel for a few reasons. For one, he's a very good athlete who can back up multiple positions, which in turn makes him extremely valuable.
Secondly, his experience as a tight end will prove invaluable. Cincinnati has been known over the past four or more years to use an unbalanced line with an extra offensive lineman entering the game who is an eligible receiver.
Dennis Roland used to serve that role, but now the Bengals have a former tight end playing an offensive lineman position.
Again, the name of the game is versatility. Fragel has that, and he could also create mismatches as a rookie. His alarming versatility and usefulness should be on full display during camp.
At this point, Jayson DiManche is a name you may have heard. The Bengals made headlines by giving him the second-largest contract of any undrafted rookie this year—and for good reason.
DiManche flashed plenty of talent in college and has the versatility the coaching staff tends to covet in Cincinnati.
While DiManche seems like a natural fit on the weak side, he saw most of his snaps on the strong side during rookie minicamp. His performance resulted in The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy writing that he is the most likely undrafted talent to make the final roster.
DiManche is a name that could turn a few heads during training camp, especially if injuries begin to wreak havoc on the linebacker corps. His speed to the ball and prowess against the run will also be major factors.
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