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With the regular season upon us, the criteria for the players to watch has changed, and will be fluid going forward. In the preseason, we concentrated on bubble players looking to make a big enough splash to make the roster, such as Chris Carter. Now, the players on this list might be intriguing due to individual matchups, lingering injuries, past performances, or just about anything else you can think of.
1.) Russell Bodine
While Dan Williams is a fine player, it wouldn't matter who was lining up across from Bodine on Sunday. He struggled mightily this preseason and in training camp, whether it be simple shotgun snaps, giving up sacks, or just being generally not good. As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and Bodine is undoubtedly the offensive line's weakest link. Despite a rough preseason last year, Bodine occasionally showed us that he is capable of not sucking. Let's see if he can take a step forward when it matters.
2.) Dre Kirkpatrick
With the Bengals' base defense being more nickel than 4-3, we all knew that Kirkpatrick, Adam Jones, and Leon Hall would be seeing the field often. However, I was mildly surprised to see Kirkpatrick ahead of Hall on the depth chart this year. His play to end 2014 in conjunction with a strong offseason obviously caught the coaching staff's eyes. With the starting spot officially his, it's time to see what he brings as a full-time starter.
3.) Geno Atkins
2014 Geno was not the Geno that we've all come to know and love. The best player on the roster was not that last year as he spent the year gaining confidence and strength in his surgically repaired knee. The coaches have been saying it, and the preseason showed what we hoped to be true; Geno is back. Week 1 will give us more definitive proof that what the preseason briefly showed is actually the case.
4.) Tyler Eifert
Tyler Eifert is that guy who flirts with a girl once or twice, makes them think he's really into her, and then disappears. In his football case though, he has done that to us twice. In year one, he gave up snaps and targets to Jermaine Gresham as he worked through Marvin Lewis' signature period of rookie distrust. In year two, Eifert was poised to breakout. On the very first drive, he hauled in three catches for 37 yards before injuring his elbow, ending his 2014 campaign. 2015 brings a clean bill of health and Eifert is leading the tight end depth chart. It's time to see all of that tantalizing potential come to fruition.
5.) Marvin Jones
After a 2013 campaign in which Jones converted 19.6% of his 51 receptions into touchdowns, the question of who the Bengals' #2 wide receiver would be was finally answered. But then, a foot injury made him a spectator for 2014. While Mohamed Sanu filled in admirably, having that trio together this year will give Andy Dalton the strongest receiving corps he's ever had. Jones (and Eifert) could breathe life into an offense that needed an electrical cardio-version at times in 2014.