Cincinnati Bengals: Position-by-Position Breakdown for 2012
Andy Dalton has this position to his own for years to come. The question becomes depth at the position. Should Dalton get hurt, what would be the back-up plan?
Bruce Gradkowski has one year remaining on his contract and should once again be the backup to Andy Dalton. I can foresee the Bengals picking up a quarterback late in the draft such as Kellen Moore, Case Keenum or Dominique Davis. All three quarterbacks could develop into solid number two guys.
Zac Robinson, who is on the practice squad now, could get a look, but he is more likely a casualty next season. Names such as Chase Daniel and Kyle Boller could be interesting as backup plans as well, but as for now, Andy Dalton is the head of the class.
Running Back & Fullback
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Cedric Benson will more than likely not be part of this Bengals team in 2012, but the Bengals brass does not think Bernard Scott is the answer.
I see the Bengals making a splash in the draft by getting Lamar Miller. Miller has more upside than other backs in the draft except for Trent Richardson and maybe, maybe, David Wilson. The Bengals have an extra pick in the first round, so do not be surprised to see Lamar Miller as one them.
Bernard Scott is talented, but not quite a feature back in the NFL. He will once again be relegated to second on the depth chart, but could very well see an increase in touches throughout the season.
Brian Leonard has been a go-to guy for the past couple of years, and the Bengals will welcome him back with open arms. Brian Leonard is the poor man's Peyton Hillis and provides a spark on third down and on special teams. Cedric Peerman is also fearless on special teams, but may not play into the future of this team.
Chris Pressley has been very good blocking for Cedric Benson this season. He is a restricted free agent in 2012, but should be brought back rather easily. James Develin, who is on the practice squad, is a guy that is hard-nosed, but it will also be tough for him to push Pressley out of the position.
Brian Leonard also can play some fullback and provides excellent depth at the position. I cannot foresee the Bengals making any type of acquisition for the fullback position.
Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
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A.J. Green has exploded on the scene this season and should continue to develop into an elite receiver in 2012. The main problem the Bengals will have is finding some help opposite Green. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell are both free agents in 2012. I doubt either will be back.
Jordan Shipley will return from his ACL injury and should provide an instant boost to the offense. Andrew Hawkins is a speed demon and will continue to be an under the radar type scat-back.
That leaves the Bengals with rarely used Ryan Whalen and practice squad member Armon Binns. Whalen and Binns are long-shots to make the squad next season and the Bengals will have to hit free-agency hard or find some guys in the draft.
The Bengals definitely need a No. 2 receiver and DeSean Jackson makes sense, but luring him to Cincinnati is going to be tough. I ultimately think the Bengals will sign someone like Steve Smith of the Philadelphia Eagles or make a play for Alshon Jeffery in the draft.
The draft field is loaded with talented receivers, so the Bengals could find some great depth later in the draft. Guys like Marvin McNutt of Iowa and Jordan White of Western Michigan are potential steals later in the draft.
The tight end position is also sewn up for 2012 with Jermaine Gresham as the number one guy. Gresham has developed into a solid, above average tight end who is only going to get better. Once Jermaine Gresham can catch tougher passes and block the edge a little tighter, he should become a Pro-Bowl caliber tight end.
Colin Cochart is name no one outside of Cincinnati knows about, but he is a solid No. 2 tight end. I do think the Bengals will need to sign a tough veteran who knows the game like their current tight end Donald Lee.
Andrew Whitworth may be one of the most underrated offensive tackles in the history of the game, but he is a leader and tough as nails. Whitworth recently signed an extension to remain in Cincinnati, and should once again anchor this line for many years to come. Oft-injured Andre Smith has finally come along and developed into a solid tackle, but injuries haunt him still.
The interior needs the most help. Bobbie Williams is a free agent and will more than likely call it a career after 2011. Williams has looked a step behind all season and an upgrade is coming.
The Bengals could take a long look at University of Georgia guard, Cordy Glenn before the draft and if they can snag him on day two, then they will have another piece of the puzzle figured out. Clint Boling should turn into a really nice catch, but may be another year or two away from a starting position, which means free agency will be the way to go.
The Bengals could look at a couple of guys like Chicago Bears guard Roberto Garza or Indianapolis Colts guard Ryan Diem to fill the hole until Boling is ready. Nate Livings has been, well, awful this season and nothing tells me that he is capable of being a starter anywhere else.
Kyle Cook has not been the same center since his 2009 campaign and will more than likely be released or demoted to second team in 2012. Cook has nice athletic ability for the position, but cannot hold blocks against heavier defensive tackles. Look for the Bengals to address this need in the draft with Ohio State center, Mike Brewster or Alabama center, William Vlachos.
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The defensive line has been utterly impressive for the Cincinnati Bengals this season and they should remain mostly intact for next. Frostee Rucker is a free agent, but has said he loves Cincinnati and the Bengals would love to bring him back. Rucker has finally turned into a solid end and is a tough block every play he is in.
Carlos Dunlap has been injured throughout 2011, but, barring any injury in 2012, should continue to only get better. Robert Geathers has quietly put together a great season and is a leader on the edge. Michael Johnson took a step back this second half of the season. However, through the first eight games, he looked like a machine, getting in the backfield every snap.
The interior line has been anchored by Domata Peko and has shined this season. Peko and Geno Atkins have turned into a nasty duo in the middle and should continue that push next season. Depth will be the issue come 2012 because Jonathan Fanene and Pat Sims are both free-agents, and both are quality enough to garner some starting looks by other organizations.
The Bengals could find some depth in the draft in the later rounds, but I believe they will look free agents first. Some names that pop into mind for depth purposes would be Amobi Okoye and Frank Okam. These two guys are solid and would fit into the rotation rather seamlessly.
If the Bengals look in the draft, they may come across a couple of names that really stick out in the later rounds. Logan Harrell of Fresno State does not get the publicity, but he is built like a machine and could be a starter at some point. Kheeston Randall also stands out in the late rounds of the draft as a solid rotation guy.
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The linebacking corps for the Cincinnati Bengals has been a disappointment this season. On the outside, the Bengals will have Keith Rivers returning, maybe, and Thomas Howard. Manny Lawson will be a free agent in 2012 and will probably not be brought back.
On the inside, Rey Maualuga is starting to turn the corner, but he has to work on his tackling ability. The Bengals have plenty of options for the position through free agency and could go after some guys like D'Qwell Jackson or David Hawthorne.
The big question mark will be the health of Keith Rivers. This year was supposed to be his breakout campaign, but he has yet to take a snap and will more than likely not return at any point. The Bengals would also like to get a look at Dontay Moch and see if he can turn into a solid prospect.
I do not think the Bengals will get a linebacker high in the draft, but with a bevy of picks throughout, may take a flier on a guy like Steven Johnson from Kansas on Day 3.
The secondary may be the largest area of need for the Cincinnati Bengals. Leon Hall will return, but may not be 100 percent by the start of the season after tearing his Achilles tendon earlier in the season. Nate Clements will return, but he may only be quick enough for nickel packages. Adam "Don't call me Pac Man" Jones is also slowing down a bit, but remains semi-productive outside.
Kelly Jennings is another corner who just has not lived up to his position in the draft and may end up as a roster casualty in 2012. One guy to keep an eye on is Brandon Ghee. Ghee was a third-round pick in the 2010 draft, but has not shown much. Coaches believed he was a talented, but raw player and would take three or so years to develop.
The Bengals will more than likely go corner or safety early and possibly both. Some names that make sense for the Bengals in the draft would be Dre Kirkpatrick, Jayron Housley and Chase Minniefield at corner.
The safety position is also an area of need. Reggie Nelson has been very good this season, but is also a free agent next year. The Bengals would love to have him back, but he may get a little costly. Chris Crocker is a decent safety against the run, but lacks instincts in the passing game. Crocker is also very vulnerable to injury, which is also a concern.
The Bengals do have some good prospects for the future in Taylor Mays and Robert Sands, but they will need some starters to make impact plays. If they were looking to draft a safety early, Mark Barron of Alabama or Baccari Rambo of Georgia would be logical fits.
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The special teams department for the Cincinnati Bengals has been solid all year round except for troubles in the return game. Brandon Tate has shown glimpses, but for the most part has struggled to explode down field. Tate dances too much and loses his running lanes because of it. The Bengals will try and find a new return man for next season. I just cannot imagine Brandon Tate being their guy next season.
Mike Nugent is a free agent, but he is also an Ohio guy, so I think he will remain with the Bengals. Nugent has become very consistent and should be a Pro-Bowler this season.
Kevin Huber has been sharp at times and then sometimes he just makes awful kicks. He is still young and has a leg, but the Bengals may give him competition in 2012.