Cincinnati Bengals' Most Under- and Overrated Offseason Additions
For the most part, the Cincinnati Bengals have been largely silent in terms of new additions to the team. Yes, of course they went through the NFL Draft and picked up some UDFAs, but fans around the Queen City were not thrilled about the lack of action the team showed during free agency.
The only action they seemed to really go through were the losses of Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson to Tampa Bay.
Still, there are some new faces in Cincinnati this year, including guys like Darqueze Dennard and Jeremy Hill, as well as veteran additions like Danieal Manning and Will Svitek. With only a couple of months remaining before the season begins, who hasn't been getting enough buzz—and who has been getting too much?
Overrated: AJ McCarron
Before every Bengals fan jumps down my threat, let me work my way through this thought.
I'm not implying that every Bengals fan thinks that AJ McCarron is the team's savior, but what I have noticed living in Cincinnati is that a heavy majority of the fans in town blame Andy Dalton for the continued slump in the postseason. Therefore, local sports talk radio started buzzing following the McCarron selection.
There are plenty of people who think that the pick is a message to Dalton, which it might well be. There are also plenty of people who believe McCarron can be Dalton's replacement if this is the Red Rifle's last season in Cincinnati.
This slide is to send a message to people with that thought—that isn't his purpose of being here. Is it possible that he'll start here some day? Yes, but the city of Cincinnati needs to dial down on the McCarron enthusiasm.
He is a guy who represents hope, so it is understandable why people are excited to have him here, and I truthfully can't wait to see him throw this offseason. In the end, McCarron has a lot of development to go through, and he isn't going to be ready for the NFL after one season as a third-string quarterback.
It's okay to be excited or even optimistic about this guy, but be careful not to go overboard.
Underrated: Trey Hopkins
As an UDFA, Trey Hopkins may be a nobody to the casual Cincinnati Bengals fan. However, it is very possible, maybe even likely that Hopkins will be on the Week 1 roster.
With Clint Boling still recovering from knee surgery and Mike Pollack being hurt, Hopkins received some playing time with the first-team offense during OTAs and minicamp. The offensive line was shuffled up quite a bit during that time, as the team experimented with both Hopkins and Russell Bodine at left guard.
While at Texas, Hopkins started games at both left guard and right tackle, making him valuable to have on the team because of his versatility.
Further, Boling is proving that he is an injury-prone guy, and Bodine may be the starting center. Those things leave a gaping hole at left guard and it is likely to come down to Hopkins and Tanner Hawkinson for the starting spot. Picking up an UDFA who winds up starting is not very common, so keep an eye on the developing Hopkins.
Overrated: Will Svitek
I have all the respect in the world for Will Svitek, who has bounced around the league a little bit without really being qualified to be called a journeyman. His most recent stop was in New England last season, where he started a couple of games.
While the veteran presence is good to have on the team with so many young offensive linemen, it just doesn't seem like there will be a place for Svitek. It appears that the big veteran presence on the line who will play backup is going to be Marshall Newhouse, who has received substantially more time on the first-team offense during minicamp.
After having been in the league since 2005 and never truly making an impact, it doesn't seem like there will be a spot on the 53-man roster for Svitek.
Underrated: Marshall Newhouse
Following the departure of Anthony Collins, the Bengals had to replace that strong backup for Andrew Whitworth. They seem to have found it in Marshall Newhouse, who has a similar size and stature to Collins.
During OTAs and minicamp, the Bengals' offensive staff were experimenting with different lineups to figure out the best starting five. As I mentioned, Clint Boling, the starting left guard, is injured, leaving a hole in that part of the lineup. While speculation is that Trey Hopkins, Mike Pollack or Tanner Hawkinson will be in that spot, one thought is to do what they did last season.
That was to place Whitworth at guard and to put Newhouse at left tackle, playing the part of Collins. Newhouse was the starting left tackle for Aaron Rodgers in 2011 and 2012 when the Green Bay Packers were arguably the best team in the NFL.
With good experience and a strong build, expect for Newhouse to see a lot of time on Cincinnati's o-line and hopefully make an impact similar to that of Collins.
Overrated: Danieal Manning
Is anyone throwing a parade for the addition of Danieal Manning? Not really, but the idea of what Manning used to be still exists. The simple fact is that he isn't that guy anymore.
Manning had arguably his best season in 2009, when he recorded over 90 tackles and had a hand in five turnovers. He had a decent showing in 2012 with the Houston Texans, but the 2013 season saw him put up the worst season of his pro career.
It's a solid addition in that he can teach a lot to the young safeties, George Iloka and Shawn Williams. It's unclear what the role of Williams will be going forward, but you have to believe that the defensive staff would like to get him playing at some point.
Focusing on Manning, it's looking like he is going to get a pretty good amount of playing time rotating in and out with Iloka and maybe Reggie Nelson. Manning's time should be very limited, given his durability issues in 2013.
It's becoming clear that Manning is on the back nine of his career—possibly on his last leg. He needs to be used more as a coach than a guy on the field in 2014.
Underrated: James Wilder, Jr.
It's unlikely that James Wilder, Jr. will see a whole lot of playing time this season, but that shouldn't diminish the sense of optimism and potential surrounding him.
There are certainly character and even ability concerns surrounding Wilder, but after a year of development on the practice squad, there's no reason to believe that he couldn't make an impact. Yes, the running back corps is very crowded at the moment, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis will certainly be gone by next season and who knows what could happen with Rex Burkhead and Cedric Peerman.
Wilder was on a rotating corps of running backs at Florida State, never truly being the featured running back. However, he runs with a lot of power and decent speed, and I could see him developing into a good third-down back.
With Hue Jackson at the helm of the team's offense, the running game is going to get a lot more attention than it has in years past. If Wilder flourishes under his instruction, don't be shocked when he is on the roster next season alongside Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.