The Cincinnati Bengals are now through a week of their 2013 training camp. We have just begun to see a small sample size of what this team could possibly be capable of accomplishing in the upcoming season. Certain players have begun to emerge, and others seem to be on the decline.
Even though it is far too early to tell exactly who is performing well enough to either climb the depth chart or stick to the final 53-man roster, we can begin to get an idea at this point.
On the flip side, there are players that may be losing out on a starting role—or even worse—missing out on a roster spot all together due to either poor performance, or simply a better performance by another player at the same position.
Regardless of the circumstances, some players are finding themselves in far better positions at the moment than others.
Let's take a look at 10 Bengals whose stock has either risen or dropped over the beginning days of training camp.
Andy Dalton seems to have made the most strides since the 2012 season came to an end. He has cleaned up his game on a variety of levels and seems to be relishing his new leadership role with the team.
There have been plenty of positive reports that have surfaced about Dalton during training camp, thus far. One such report is from Associated Press writer Joe Kay. During an interview with Dalton, the quarterback was asked about his leadership ability:
I feel like I'm not just leading by example out there, I'm also being vocal out there. Now that I've played a couple of years, I've got some notches on my belt, so I feel like everybody knows that they can trust me. They know how hard I work and how much I study to get prepared for these games.
I feel like I'm able to be a really good leader for this, not only offensively, but for everybody as a whole.
Even Bengals.com has reported that Dalton has looked sharp during 11-on-11 drills, and he has been very consistent and accurate with short-to-intermediate passes across the middle of the field.
Things seem to be looking up for the Bengals quarterback.
He has seen very few reps on the defensive side of the ball. His obvious steep learning curve has not allowed him to get into the action until he can clean up his fundamentals.
Hunt has not even taken many snaps on special teams, which comes as a big surprise. The former collegiate special teams ace and kick-blocking extraordinaire has been quiet on that front.
It almost seems as if the coaching staff is making sure Hunt is taking very small baby steps in his transition to the NFL. It could certainly be a very good thing to ensure that Hunt is not rushed into action too quickly—that could cause him to develop bad habits.
It appears that Bengals fans may not be seeing as much of Hunt as was originally expected this season, if he continues to struggle with the basics.
The Bengals' 2013 first-round draft selection Tyler Eifert is living up to his billing. He was already known to be an extremely gifted athlete at the tight end position coming out of college. However, his transition to the NFL has been quick and smooth.
Since OTAs, Eifert has consistently impressed the coaching staff and his Bengals teammates. Fox News recently interviewed offensive coordinator Jay Gruden about the amount of success that Eifert has had thus far:
He's done everything we thought and more. He's just one of those guys that when he makes a play, you kind of look around and see if anybody else saw what he just did.
He's running routes and catching the ball. He's very natural at what he does. He can beat man coverage no problem. He can beat zones. He's got a great feel for the game.
That's quite a great deal of praise from the man that is orchestrating the entire offense. It appears that the Bengals may be able to unleash their new offensive weapon very early on in the season.
Taylor Mays is in one of those instances where he may be dropped down the depth chart, not because of the way he is performing, but due to how well others are performing at his position.
He's actually doing some things better than I thought he could do. He's got a lot of mobility. He can move back there. I knew he was going to do well in the Oklahoma. I knew that. When you watched him play in college, you knew he was going to hit people. He'll hit you, now.
By going out there every day and consistently making plays, being in the right spot, and having no mental errors. The first way to get off the field is making mental errors. If a guy runs by you, you really can’t do much about that besides fixing your technique – but you can’t make mental errors.
It appears that the way these two safeties are performing, the not-so-talked-about Mays could be the odd man out.
Another rookie who has been very impressive in camp so far is second-round selection Giovani Bernard. He has already received a great deal of reps on the offensive side of the ball—both at running back and wide receiver, via Fox News.
It appears as though the Bengals intend to use his versatility this season to create mismatches against defenses. This could put Bernard in line for more snaps on offensive than was originally anticipated.
Marvin Lewis had some kind words for Bernard during an interview with Fox News:
Giovani Bernard has what we're looking for. He'll be a great complement to BenJarvus. BenJarvus is a prideful man. He'll be hard to displace.
As did offensive coordinator Jay Gruden:
Obviously what sets him apart and why we really were drawn to him was his quickness out of the backfield as far as catching the ball.
With such high praise coming from the coaching staff so early in training camp, it becomes rather easy to speculate that Bernard could be in line for a major role in the Cincinnati offense in 2013.
The towering 6'9" offensive tackle, Dennis Roland, is looking to maintain a spot on the final 53-man roster this season. However, with recent additions to the team, that will be easier said than done.
The Bengals drafted Tanner Hawkinson in the fifth round and Reid Fragel in the seventh round during the 2013 draft. Both of these players are capable of replacing Roland as a backup offensive tackle. This means that Roland will have to have a great camp if he wants to maintain a roster spot.
So far, he is not off to a great start.
During the Bengals' famous Oklahoma drill, Roland dug into the trenches twice—and lost twice. He was bulled over by Hunt and was beaten by the much smaller Dontay Moch in the drill.
This does not bode well for Roland considering the nature of these drills.
He must step up in a big way if he intends to keep a roster spot this season. So far, signs would indicate otherwise.
With the addition of Eifert, backup tight end Orson Charles has been moved to a different position—H-back. At this position he will be tasked with performing the duties of a tight end while also lining up as a blocker in the backfield.
There was some slight skepticism if this was a good idea considering the great blockers that the Bengals already had at the fullback position. However, Charles' versatility was a major factor in the decision to move him.
As it turns out, this could be a brilliant move.
Charles is already known for his great hands and crisp route-running ability. However, it was unknown how well of a blocker he would be. Well, he answered that question during the Oklahoma drill.
During his first matchup, Charles mowed down Rey Maualuga. Later, he moved Vincent Rey off the line with ease. Finally, he pancaked JK Schaffer on this third—and final—run. His impressive blocking abilities were showcased and ended up making believers out of everyone that was in attendance.
The Oklahoma drill bolstered Charles' stock as an H-back quickly.
Because of the aforementioned Charles, fullback Chris Pressley suddenly sees his stock dropping at a significant rate.
Before training camp, the Charles experiment was simply that—an experiment. No one really knew if his transition to an H-back role would work out. Now that he has proven he has what it takes as a blocker, the true fullbacks on the roster must be concerned with their job security.
If the Bengals do intend to keep Charles on the roster in that position, that would leave three active tight ends in Cincinnati for the season. The first position that would be cut due to this roster move would be the fullback position.
Simply put, Charles makes Pressley expendable.
It is unfortunate for such a hard worker like Pressley; however, that is the nature of the NFL. The Bengals would be forced to make a business decision, and Pressley would find himself on the outside looking in.
Now that 2012 first-round selection Dre Kirkpatrick is finally healthy and able to participate in training camp, we are all able to see why the Bengals selected him so early just one year ago.
ESPN.com reports that Kirkpatrick has been one of the biggest surprises during training camp. He has made highlight-reel plays such as leaping in the air to break up a deep pass intended for Ryan Whalen.
Mohamed Sanu relayed this comment about that particular play:
It was mind-blowing a little bit because nobody expected him to get there and he got there.
Apparently, Dre is impressing his teammates so far. But what about his coaching staff?
They are impressed as well. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer had high praise for Kirkpatrick:
He's improved a lot from last year when he was hurt. He understands the system a lot better now. He's playing a lot more confidently and playing with a lot better technique. He's actually done really well. I've been really pleased.
It appears as though Kirkpatrick is eyeing a starting role opposite Leon Hall for the coming season:
It’s not going to be on me to make that call. But I’ll be ready. It won’t be because of me not being ready. I will be ready. I’m just playing my role.
By the way he has been performing during training camp so far, a starting role may not be out of the question.
After spending most of last season on injured reserve, six-year veteran Kyle Cook lost plenty of reps to rookie Trevor Robinson. This year, they will be in a heated battle for the starting center position throughout training camp.
Recently, it seems as though Cook has taken the lead in the battle according to comments by offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, via Dayton Daily News:
Kyle knows this offense like the back of his hand. He’s got that going for him. In order to beat Kyle Cook out, you better be really, really good. Trevor’s coming back from his pectoral injury and he’s a little bit rusty. He’s got to get back into the flow.
That is a rather telling comment by Gruden. However, even more telling could be his comment about how the coaching staff has been utilizing Robinson at camp while Cook is getting reps at center:
We have a great luxury of two guys who can play. And Trevor can play a little bit of guard, which helps. I don’t think we can wrong either way, but with the knowledge Kyle has of the offense, right now at this stage he’s doing very well.
Robinson has been used as a second-team guard to increase depth along the offensive line while Cook gets reps at the center position. Robinson does not seem to be in any danger of losing his roster spot; however, he certainly seems headed in the direction of losing out on the starting job.