#1 The Offensive Line stays intact for another season.
PFF favorite, Andre Smith is back at RT, while all-rookie Zeitler is in place at RG, giving the Bengals a great side to run.
LT is still held by a good Whitworth, and backed up by a competent A Collins.
LG becomes a battle of 2 solid candidates in quality starter Wharton & improving youngster Boling.
Several late picks were made on the line, but none of them are likely to challenge this season for starting duties.
#2 The Passing Game is opened up:
AJ Green is still on the roster as our stud top WR.
Sanu should be returning healthy as our good 2nd WR, who recorded 4 TD's in a 3-game span before injuries.
The Bengals only averaged 16 yards per game in receiving yards from the backfield. Giovani Bernard can double that by himself.
Talented Cobi Hamilton & Marvin Jones will get to duke it out for a role a the backup receiver
Tyler Eifert (6'6" 250 lbs) & Jermaine Gresham (6'5" 260 lbs) offer a dangerous TE tandem and pose matchup problems for the smaller safeties. A good pair of pass catching TE's that offer big targets for Dalton.
The addition of Eifert & health of Sanu provides Dalton a pair of very sure handed pass catchers to add to the uncoverable Green, talented Gresham, and new backfield threat Gio.
#3 The Running game is made more explosive:
BJGE's lack of explosion, coupled with the coaches unwillingness to get the ball to anybody else led to a rushing game that was only as good as the holes the O-Line could create. With the O-Line losing a starting LG and Center as the season began, this was not an effective situation.
A now healthy O-Line, plus the addition of 2013's top rookie RB Giovani Bernard should remedy that.
Gio is a very elusive, shifty RB with a low center of gravity and good speed, and a home run threat each time he touches the ball.
#4 Linebackers are slightly improved
OK, Maualuga is still there at MIKE, so not 'greatly' improved. But improved nonetheless.
SAM is improved. Gone is Manny Lawson and his 2 sacks and 38 tackles. Added is James Harrison with his 6 sacks and 70 tackles (despite playing fewer games that Lawson). Also added is a tough, physical presence that Harrison brings - especially for 2 games vs the Steelers this season. If Moch is finally ready to play, adding him to the position battle for the backup role helps the position too.
Sean Porter offers a nice battle with Lamur for the weakside spot that could ultimately allow the Bengals to slide Burfict to the middle. Hooray!
#5 Secondary finally has a Safety. Somewhat.
There is no guarantee that a 3rd round pick can become a starter. But seeing how the safety spot was so weak last year that they had to bring in Crocker off the street - it's an upgrade.
Clements, Mays, Miles and Crocker were stopgaps at the SS spot. Shawn Williams is a good in the box tackler that could potentially bring some stability to the safety position. While not Cyprien, nor an elite pass defender, he is an upgrade to what we saw last year.
#6 Secondary adds new, young corners into the position battle
Dre Kirkpatrick and Brandon Ghee have never really played yet, so they are more or less, roster additions. Dre is a mid 1st round pick with ability to cover and tackle with aggression. Adding them to a veteran, but aging cast of Hall, Jones & Newman is an upgrade to last year when we had no Dre or Ghee vying for a spot.
#7 D-Line doesn't rebuild - it just reloads
The defense is coming off a top-10 finish, that actually saw itself as a top 3 defense in the second half of the season. And much of that was due to the Bengals' D-Line. The D-Line sees all the major players return yet again (MJ, Dunlap, Geno, Geathers, Gilberry, Peko)
#8 The team will need Dalton to stay healthy
Some teams grab an experienced veteran who has had some success at the QB position to backup their starter. The Bengals took the opposite approach, adding 2 younger project QB's who are proficient at tossing the INT, and not exactly going to win you any games in a pinch.
In all, the team looks to be in a better position this year than they were last year. This is a good thing, considering they were a playoff team last year.
With Pittsburgh losing their top RB and WR, and Baltimore losing key players, and Cleveland, well, being Cleveland, this year is shaping up to be one in which the Bengals can make some noise. Who dey?