Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

July 24, 2018 at 1:10 am.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter — Andy Dalton. Backups — Matt Barkley, Jeff Driskel, Logan Woodside.

Dalton enters his seventh season and has been very durable missing only three games. Dalton is hoping to lead the Bengals to a significantly more productive season while playing behind a reformed offensive line, which was among the league’s worst units in the last two seasons.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter – Joe Mixon Backups – Giovani Bernard, Tra Carson, Clinton Flowers, Ryan Hewitt, Brian Hill, Ray Lawry, Mark Walton.

Cincinnati’s run game ranked 31st with 2,046 yards and 28th with 13 touchdowns. Mixon led the Bengals with 626 rushing yards while starting seven games and he’s the main option after Jeremy Hill joined the New England Patriots. A healthy Bernard would help as well. Bernard played in every game last season after suffering an ACL injury late in 2016. Bernard did not appear 100 percent and recorded 458 yards, but enters camp fully healthy.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter — Tyler Eifert. Backups — Tyler Kroft, Moritz Boehringer, Cethan Carter, Jordan Franks, Mason Schreck, C.J. Uzomah.

Eifert was a Pro Bowler in 2015 after catching 13 touchdowns, but injuries limited him to 10 games in the last two seasons and he has missed 40 games in his career. Cincinnati brought him back on a one-year deal, but Eifert is less than 100 percent while coping with a balky back. The good news for the Bengals is Kroft did not disappoint last season by totaling 42 receptions for 404 yards and seven touchdowns. The seven TDs were sixth among tight ends and his 42 catches ranked him 21st at the position.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters – A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Brandon LaFell. Backups – John Ross, Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, Auden Tate, Ka’Raun White, Kermit Whitfield.

Green remains effective after totaling over 1,000 yards for the sixth time in seven seasons. He turns 30 during training camp and while others get big contracts, he is focused on rebounding from an inconsistent season. There were uncharacteristic drops, the fight with Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey and it is up to new receivers coach Bob Bicknell to bring him back to normal and possibly get him to be an All-Pro for the first time in his career. “He has to be better at deep balls,” head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We weren’t good enough. Got to be better. Got to be better. Got to be better releasing off the football. We’ve got to coach him better. We have to throw and catch it better. I think we threw it to him enough. I think we have to create opportunity, but he was the best in the National Football League. Last year we weren’t.” The numbers don’t lie concerning Dalton’s long passes. Green tied for the fewest receptions of at least 25 yards in his career by hauling in only six. LaFell’s spot could be in play if someone steps up and the Bengals hope former ninth overall pick John Ross is more productive after failing to record a catch last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – LT Cordy Glenn, LG Clint Boling, C Billy Price, RG Trey Hopkins, RT Jake Fisher. Backups — Cedric Ogbuehi, Austin Fleer, Bobby Hart, T.J. Johnson, Javarius Leamon, Brad Lundblade, Justin Murray, Kent Perkins, Alex Redmond, Rod Taylor, Christian Westerman.

This unit is among the reasons for Cincinnati’s stark decrease offensively. The group has allowed 80 sacks in the last two seasons, resulting in bottom-10 finishes in various major offensive categories. The Bengals hope those things can be remedied by acquiring Cordy Glenn from Buffalo and using their first-round pick on Billy Price.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters – DE Carlos Dunlap, NT Andrew Billings, DT Geno Atkins, DE Michael Johnson. Backups — Chris Baker, Sam Hubbard, Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, Andrew Brown, Ryan Glasgow, Chris Okoye, Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, Josh Tupou.

Dunlap and Atkins are among the best at their positions, but also are unsigned beyond this season. Atkins has recorded 29 of his 61 career sacks in the last three seasons. Dunlap recorded a career-high 13.5 sacks in 2015, but finished with 7.5 last season. Assuming their contract situations don’t become a distraction, this remains a formidable duo.

LINEBACKERS: Starters – OLB Nick Vigil, MLB Preston Brown, OLB Vontaze Burfict. Backups — Brandon Bell, Jordan Evans, Malik Jefferson, Junior Joseph, Hardy Nickerson, Vincent Rey, Chris Worley.

The Bengals will start the season without Burfict, who will serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Cincinnati has done decently without him at times by going 16-12 in the games he’s missed. The Bengals are hoping starters Vigil and Brown can compensate with effective run-stopping on a unit that was among the worst in this area last season.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters – CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB William Jackson III, S Shawn Williams, S George Iloka. Backups – Darqueze Dennard, Jessie Bates, Tyrice Beverette, Clayton Fejedelem, Davontae Harris, Trayvon Henderson, William Jackson, Tony McRae, Darius Phillips, KeiVarae Russell, Josh Shaw, Sojourn Shelton, Brandon Wilson.

Jackson is an emerging star and will get an enhanced role following the departure of Adam Jones. Of course, as his reputation grows for being a shutdown corner, so does the reluctance of opposing quarterbacks to throw his way. That places the onus on Kirkpatrick and safeties Williams and Iloka. Improved play also includes improving their ability to generate turnovers, something they struggled immensely with and has been a focus in offseason workouts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Randy Bullock, K Jonathan Brown, P Kevin Huber, LS Clark Harris, PR Alex Erickson, KOR Alex Erickson.

Bullock was successful on 18-of-20 field-goal attempts and 31-of-33 extra points. Only five of those kicks were from beyond 40 yards and the Bengals are not getting complacent in the kicking game. They also have Brown, an undrafted rookie in 2016, to provide competition in training camp. The Bengals re-signed Huber to a one-year deal and barring any injury, he will set team records for punts and punt yardage held by Lee Johnson. He needs 50 punts and 698 yards to do so and is coming off a career season.




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