The Bengals' defensive line is the strength of the team. Led by, arguably, the team's best player, Geno Atkins, the line is so deep and talented that coaches are able to rotate players in and out to keep them fresh well into the fourth quarter when offensive lines are worn down. Late in the season, the Bengals defensive line looks like most other lines look early in the year.
With so many talented players, both at defensive end and at defensive tackle, the Bengals are bound to have to let some talented players leave.
For the purposes of this article, the following players will be locks:
Hunt may still be learning the game of football, but the guy is so freakishly athletic that he was worth a second-round pick. With both Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap likely competing for one contract in 2014, Hunt could move into a starting position his second year. Really, he's a lock, but since he's a rookie, he's grouped in with the mostly likely players.
Gilberry was a pleasant surprise in 2013. He was signed in free agency and finished the season with 6.5 sacks. He was re-signed in the offseason on a three-year deal worth $6.75 million. Like Hunt, Gilberry is basically a lock (which gives the Bengals four defensive ends already).
Still fell to the Bengals in the second round of the 2012 draft and while he didn't get a lot of chances to show his worth last season, he has shown he has what it takes to be a good defensive tackle in the NFL. Still will likely get quite a bit more playing time in 2013.
Thompson was selected by the Bengals in the third round of the 2012 draft and, like Still, he didn't get a ton of playing time his rookie season. He'll likely get more chances in 2013 if he makes the team.
Geathers has been a fixture on the Bengals defensive line since 2004 when he was selected in the fourth round out of Georgia. Geathers started the majority of the team's games at defensive end and was replaced by Dunlap in obvious passing situations. With the addition of Hunt and the re-signing of Gilberry, one would think Geathers could struggle to make the team. However, the fact that he was re-signed this offseason on a three-year, $9.5 million contract says otherwise.
The Bengals have kept around four or five defensive ends and four or five defensive tackles on the team over the last few years. With so many talented players listed above, someone good is bound to be released. Which defensive linemen do you think will make the final roster.