Sports Illustrated recently ran a story that points out the biggest needs for a handful of teams, with the league preparing for another wave of free agency -- typical (and uncoordinated) after the NFL draft. For instance, they say running back in Dallas, quarterback in Buffalo, right tackle in Indianapolis, wide receiver in Cleveland and St. Louis, defensive end in Detroit, inside linebacker in San Francisco and more. The post didn't include any positions of need for the Bengals... and we didn't really expect it to.
We look at the Bengals roster and think about the team's issues at those positions. One thing we'd like to point out: the Bengals cornerback, while questions exist, are good issues to have -- proven veterans with on-the-rise players who the Bengals acquired in previous drafts.
- Tight end has four new rookies on a roster that features Tyler Eifert as "the veteran" -- Eifert has played 16 games in his regular season career.
- Defensive tackle has plenty of players on the roster, but who is certain to make the roster? Geno Atkins. After him? It's questionable.
- Center has a second-year player who 1) played well as a rookie and 2) was one of the worst-performing centers according to PFF. Is Russell Bodine the long-term forecast or is there a cartoonish musical chair game on the horizon?
Tyler Eifert, coming off a dislocated elbow that wiped out his entire sophomore season, expects to be ready for training camp. Eifert has played 16 regular season games in his career, which is enough to carry the title as the most experienced tight end on Cincinnati's roster. The Bengals acquired four rookies over the last month, Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah in the NFL draft and college free agents Matt Lengel and John Peters.
If you read someone's projection in 2015 at tight end, just remember... they're full of it. There's such an unknown here right now.
Russell Bodine played every game last year as a fourth-round rookie. Rookie centers usually struggle and the most optimistic folk will say that he played well for a rookie -- which is fine. However, he had his fair-share of struggles as well, ranked as the No. 33 best center according to Pro Football Focus. The hope is that he significantly improves.
There are some that are juggling pieces on the Bengals' chessboard, moving Boling to center and Whitworth to left guard. That would leave Jake Fisher, Cincinnati's second-round pick from the 2015 NFL draft, to anchor the left side. On the other hand, this could be the plan in 2016 (with Fisher playing right tackle and first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi at left tackle).
Let me preface by saying that Domata Peko deserves more loyalty from fans than he's given. A man of high character who has made Cincinnati home to his family, Peko is a strength/benefit to the Bengals lockerroom. Like Andrew Whitworth, Peko helped organize offseason workouts. He also staged a significant number of workouts with his defensive players at Ignition APG.
On the field, is that enough? You want it to be. I want it to be. However, you're also convinced that the position could undergo an upgrade.
Under Peko and defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the Bengals depth chart at defensive tackle is not unlike a patchwork of veterans and draft picks, all of whom will make an argument to survive the summer and make the 53-man roster. As it stands right now, Devon Still, Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims won't all survive final cuts.
As a former fourth-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft, Marcus Hardison is safe (unless he just completely fails to stay... which he'd have to actually try to do). And who is to say that players like DeShean Williams or Toni Pole can't make a claim either? Well, most people.
Just kidding. Don't hurt me.