With training camp halfway over, it's time to take stock of the Bengals who are seeing their stocks rise or fall. For some, this is an indicator of how much they figure to be part of the offense or defense this year. For others, this is a sign of who put themselves on the right or wrong side of the roster bubble. Here's a look at whose stock is up heading into Week 1 of the preseason.
The unfortunate ankle injury of Marvin Jones has given Sanu a fortunate opportunity to become one of Andy Dalton's favorite targets during the first half of camp. While Tyler Eifert and AJ Green are looking like stars, Sanu is right behind them in terms of the number of targets he's getting in camp, as he seems to finally be grasping the offense and finding his role as the starting slot receiver.
He's not burning defenders for huge gains, but he's consistently getting open in the short-to-intermediate game and getting eight-10 yard chunk plays under the defense, which is exactly what the Bengals need from him. That's the role slot receivers often play; get those chunk plays underneath the defense to open up the field more for guys like Green to have to just beat one man deep instead of two.
It's also going to be interesting to see how Hue Jackson uses him in his offense. As a rookie, Sanu was used in a variety of ways, whether it was as RB, or even lining up as a Wildcat QB. So far in camp, Sanu has been used in both of those roles than he was in camp last year, when Jay Gruden was more focused on making him a complete receiver.
The second-year tight end has been a beat in camp thus far. He's unstoppable running down the seam, but he's also lining up wide more as the Bengals are expanding his role this year.
Like Sanu, Eifert is benefiting from the injury of someone else to get more focus put on him. Jermaine Gresham's ailing back is becoming a concern, but to this point, Eifert has looked more productive than the Gresham/Eifert combo was at any point last year. Those two never seemed to have a good game in the same week, but neither of them never had big games either. Neither broke 100 yards last year, and the best single-game performance either had in 2013 was a 6-catch, 66-yard game by Gresham vs the Steelers in Week 2.
Right now, Eifert looks like a guy poised to catch seven+ touchdowns (Bengals TEs caught combined 7 last year) and post several 100+ yard games this year. Those aren't 'elite' numbers, but they'd be a drastic improvement over last year.
When the Bengals drafted Marquis Flowers in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, most assumed the former Arizona linebacker was likely heading to the practice squad, or with another team if someone claimed him during final cuts.
He made sure his presence was felt in his training camp debut last week. Flower was all over the field making plays in coverage and the run game. His reputation in college was that of a guy who hit like a linebacker and ran like a safety.
The early belief is the Bengals will keep five linebackers, along with safety Taylor Mays, who played nickle-backer last year and did well in that role. Flowers was actually drafted out of Arizona with a similar background to that of Mays.
But it's been Flowers who's gotten occasional first-team reps with the defense, not Mays. If Flowers' performance in practice translates into good showings in preseason games, he'll be a lock for the final 53-man roster by Week 3 of the preseason.
The Bengals are good for getting at least one undrafted player onto their 53-man roster. Texas guard Trey Hopkins is one to watch for this summer as he looks to win a roster spot along an injured and thin o-line.
With Mike Pollak battling a knee injury and Clint Boling rehabbing from ACL surgery, Hopkins got a lot of reps with the first-team offense in OTAs.
That hasn't changed in camp as both Boling and Pollak have alternated days off, leaving Hopkins to run with the starting offense. It's also helped that Pollak has gotten reps at center, leaving the guard position dangerously thin. Hopkins's strength is in the run game, where he consistently opened holes for Texas backs in college. Knowing that Hue Jackson wants to run the ball more is good news for Hopkins' chances to make the 53-man roster.
To this point, Hopkins has essentially gotten the most first-team reps of any backup guard, It also looks like he's passed Tanner Hawkinson on the depth chart. Those two are likely battling for one roster spot, though Hawkinson can play both tackle and guard. Hopkins did spend some time at right tackle in college.