As you're all aware of, we love us some Mike Zimmer here in Cincy. What he has done with this defense is nothing short of miraculous. Most teams would have cracked under the weight of these injuries, but that's where we're different. We have depth.
Our D-line gets the enormous boost of Geno Atkins along with the veteran leadership and run stopping of Geathers and the added depth of Devon Still, a former 2nd round pick. Our linebacking core gets out coverage backer back in Lamur and young depth/special teams play in Sean Porter and Brandon Joiner. And finally, our secondary gets a top 10 cornerback back in Leon Hall, granted off of his second major injury, and the promising play of Taylor Mays as our S/LB.
This defense easily can exceed this year's defense simply due to players coming back off of IR.
Our offense has taken a slight hit as well, though not nearly as much as our defense.
We have Clint Boling coming back at G, who has shown flashes of tremendous play, and the recently IRed Alex Smith, our best blocking TE.
The offense won't benefit a lot from players returning, but they will improve simply due to young players maturing.
The Bengals use a promising drafting method to improve overall talent on our squad. Recent history shows that they go BPA in the first 2-3 rounds, draft for development in the 4th and 5th round, and use the 6th and 7th rounds to draft specialists. According to this "rule," here is my Bengals mock draft.
1) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon or Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Ifo is easily one of the best corners in the NCAA, but there are rumors that he might return to school. If so, Justin Gilbert would be a spectacular consolation prize. He has great size and athleticism for a CB and should thrive in Zimmer's D. If neither are available, Jason Verret, CB, TCU would be just dandy as well.
2) Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU: Very smart and instinctive linebacker that has tremendous pass coverage skills. Needs to bulk up a little to defend the run but has all the tools so succeed
3) Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas: The most coveted center in the class. Tremendously smart and would shore up the offensive line for years to come. Most likely would sit one year, learn the offense, and then produce in the 2015-2016 season, barring any injuries.
4) Taylor Hart, DE/DT, Oregon: Can play either DE or DT, has a good frame and long arms, coupled with deceptive explosion. Would greatly add to the D-line depth, with or without the signing of Michael Johnson.
5) Rashad Greene, WR, FSU or Shaq Washington, WR, UCLA: Incredibly fast receiver with good hands and is incredibly smart. Shows passion for the game and does the little things (block as a WR, knows when to sit in the zone). Also has great explosiveness and runs good routes. Washington has great home-run capabilities, knows how to get behind a defense using double moves, and has good hands/size for an outside receiver. Plays with a chip on his shoulder.
6) Silas Redd, RB, USC: Best back available this late. Has great cutback ability, speed, and elusiveness. Needs to work on his blocking though. Would prefer a power back here, but can wait till next draft due to BJGE and Rex Burkhead.
7) Kenny Guiton, QB, OSU: One of the more potential-based picks in the draft. Has shown ability in the games he has played. His style fits the pro-system more than the college system and can be groomed as a backup to Dalton for his first few years. With a 7th round pick, not much more value can be asked for.
So with all of the returning pieces, along with the additions in the draft and the maturation of our young players, there is no reason to expect the Bengals to fall off in the coming years. We have the potential to create an AFC North dynasty and must jump at the opportunity.
I hope you all enjoyed this post, feel free to leave comments, edit my mock draft, and talk about how the Bengals will win a Super Bowl in the coming future. Cheers, AZBengal18.