Cincinnati Bengals Offseason State of the Union
At this point in the offseason, it is time to examine the state of affairs for the Cincinnati Bengals. The team is fresh off three playoff seasons, which has resulted in exactly zero playoff wins.
This season, a playoff appearance is not going to be enough for fans in the Queen City. A lot of them are already calling for the head of Andy Dalton, forgetting about BenJarvus Green-Ellis and wondering if Vontaze Burfict is a Defensive Player of the Year talent.
Examining these situations, as well as others, is important for this coaching squad going forward. The team is moving forward without Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, meaning the play could be very different—but that won't slide should the Bengals struggle this season.
We're only a month-and-a-half from the start of the preseason, so at this point, what do the Bengals need to be looking at?
Team Disappointed with Jermaine Gresham?
Jermaine Gresham has been the Bengals' starting tight end since he was drafted in 2010. During his time in Cincinnati, he's been quite a big role-player, having scored 19 touchdowns in four seasons.
Unfortunately for Gresham, his worst year to date came in 2013 when he set a career low in yards at 458 and tied a career low at four touchdowns, which was set his rookie season.
Per Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com (h/t Jason Marcum on Cincy Jungle) the Bengals coaching staff was "far from pleased with Gresham" during the 2013 season. He received over 200 more snaps than Tyler Eifert, who was drafted to utilize the two tight-end set seen in New England with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
With Gresham in a contract year, is he on the way out? Or are we going to see Gresham break through and become a top-tier tight end who can be grouped with guys like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham? At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Gresham has the size to beat opposing defenders.
Eifert isn't gunning for Gresham's job and it doesn't seem likely the coaches wish to give him away. However, Gresham missed OTAs due to hernia surgery and the Bengals staff already had their issues with him. What does the future hold for the Bengals' starting tight end?
Is Russell Bodine the Starting Center?
According to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, the Bengals believe "Bodine is their guy at center." It may seem pretty quick to insert a Day 3 draft selection into the starting lineup, but Bodine carries the attributes that his adversary Trevor Robinson doesn't really have.
Bodine was a guy the Bengals traded up for, so they have to be of the same belief. Bodine is big and strong for his size, capable of keeping opposing defenders back.
It seems the former Tar Heel is going to join a relatively inexperienced offensive line, possibly consisting of Tanner Hawkinson, Bodine and Kevin Zeitler across the middle.
However, don't discount Robinson or Mike Pollack just yet, as there's a lot of offseason yet.
What Will Vincent Rey's Role Be?
From 2010 to 2012, Vincent Rey's career highs read as follows: 22 tackles, one sack, zero interceptions, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.
Rey appeared in 16 games in 2014 and racked up an outstanding 57 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions (one pick-six), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Not too shabby for a man who filled in as a reserve and started for the injured Rey Maualuga.
As this season approaches, Rey should be given the opportunity to start. It likely won't come on the strong side, as he hasn't started a game there in his career. That will likely come down to Jayson DiManche, Brandon Joiner and Marquis Flowers. No, Rey is going to have to challenge Maualuga for playing time.
It isn't too far-fetched, as Rey did get some first-team action during OTAs. In all likelihood, the scenario for Rey will be that he platoons across the middle of the defense and even makes some appearances on the line. After his showing last season, there's no way he'll be ignored by Paul Guenther, who used to work exclusively with the linebackers.
Is BenJarvus Green-Ellis on His Way out
Veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis very well have made his last appearance in Cincinnati with the drafting of Jeremy Hill and follow-up signing of James Wilder Jr.
Green-Ellis has never been the type to put up huge numbers—his career high in rushing came in 2012 when he ran for 1,094 yards, which won't come close to any records. He's always been a power back, never having the speed to match some of the league's more successful running backs.
At OTAs, Green-Ellis was given the lowly task of working with the third team according to NFL.com's Michael Fabiano (h/t Fansided's Matthew Wilson). That may have been sufficient for Wilder, but not for a veteran entering his seventh year in the NFL.
With Jeremy Hill impressing enough during OTAs to leapfrog Green-Ellis on the depth chart, it's hard to imagine the Bengals keeping the former Patriot on the books when it seems he will, at best, be the No. 3 back. Green-Ellis stands to bring in a base salary of $2.3 million this season.
Barring injury, it seems to be a waste to keep the Law Firm in Cincinnati. While he had a good showing, when it comes to his level of talent, there doesn't appear to be a place for him on the roster.
Is It Truly Andy Dalton's Make-or-Break Season?
While football is absolutely a team sport, it is no secret that the fans of the Bengals place a lot of blame for three consecutive playoff losses on Andy Dalton. Fair or not, that's the state of the game—the quarterback is going to receive a lot of heat every time out.
Now that Dalton is in a contract year, it will be interesting to see how the Bengals' front office approaches the situation. Dalton told ESPN.com he'd be fine with a deal similar to the one Colin Kaepernick signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
Whether I agree with that or not is beside the point, but both sides are talking. If Dalton does not go into the season with an extension, I find it hard to believe he'll get one midseason. It would be a huge risk on both sides, as we saw how Joe Flacco made that situation pay off for him.
In three seasons that have netted Dalton 30 wins, he's thrown 80 touchdowns and 49 interceptions. One has to wonder what the presence of star receiver A.J. Green has to do with that.
Time will tell what the contract situation of Dalton will be. With AJ McCarron now in Cincinnati, the question will begin to fly—who will be under center in 2015?
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