There are a handful of position battles brewing on the Bengals roster for the 2012 season. Aside from wide receiver and cornerback, the most heated battle is at the safety position. The Bengals thankfully re-signed Reggie Nelson this offseason, but his partner over the past two seasons, Chris Crocker, was released and the team is looking for somebody to step up.
Logically, the choice to replace Crocker at the strong safety position was Taylor Mays. At first glimpse during Tuesday's OTA session that wasn't didn't seem to be the case. FOX Sports' Zac Jackson noted that it was a different player lining up opposite of Nelson, in Robert Sands. Later, Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com noted that it was indeed Mays that was with the starting group.
Even though the 9-7 Bengals have much of the same cast that took them to a Wild Card game, left tackle
Andrew Whitworth senses an even newer day. He got that sense when center Kyle Cook mentioned how strange it was lining up in between new guards. He got the sense blocking for former New England running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and watching safety Taylor Mays patrol the starting secondary.
As we've noted before, the Bengals love to do a lot of different things with their safeties, including lining them up in the slot and switching the roles of the "free" and "strong" safeties. The team has a couple of players that seem to be able to play both spots in Sands, rookie George Iloka, and even Jeromy Miles.
The club went heavy on the position group last year, keeping six safeties on the 53-man roster. It's unlikely that they'll keep that many this year, especially with the logjam at wide receiver and defensive line. We'll continue to monitor the happenings at the position, but for now it appears that Mays has the leg up on the other open safety position.