The Cincinnati Bengals experienced as much change at safety as they have any position not named quarterback over the offseason. Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker are your projected starting safeties; something we've known for months. After that it's all changed. Gone are the days of Roy Williams' fragility, Chinedum Ndukwe and Tom Nelson -- all three of whom struggled defending the pass. New are the days of a core group that's a combination of experience, youth and potential.
Taylor Mays, six career starts in the NFL, drew high praise from the Bengals during the pre-draft process last year. It was rumored at one point that the Bengals may use their 21st overall pick on Mays before selecting tight end Jermaine Gresham. Gibril Wilson is an experienced and accomplished safety before his injury preceding 2010 that wiped out the season; he's still rusty getting back into pre-injury form. Robert Sands is the team's fifth-round draft pick and Jeromy Miles (an undrafted free agent last year), played six games last year after being being promoted to the 53-man roster once the secondary was devastated with injuries.
The Bengals will start the season with Chris Crocker at strong safety and Mays backing him up. Reggie Nelson starts at free safety and Wilson backing him up. All four safety backups are prime candidates to receive significant time on special teams.
Starters: Reggie Nelson and Chris Crocker
Backups: Gibril Wilson and Taylor Mays
Others: Robert Sands and Jeromy Miles