The Bengals will retain nine offensive starters from the 2015 season in 2016, and a couple of young players will aspire to fill the voids left from Cincinnati's offseason losses. We're taking an early look at who the projected starters are, starting with the offense.
Quarterback: Andy Dalton
This one's obvious. Though AJ McCarron admirably filled in for Dalton after the starter fractured his thumb late in the 2015 season, Dalton is the clear starter. Dalton was in the MVP conversation before sustaining the injury, and for good reason. Last season, he ranked second in the NFL in passer rating.
Running back: Jeremy Hill
Plenty of Bengal fans will contest with this one, but there's no arguing that Hill is the most dynamic running back on Cincinnati's roster when healthy. Though Giovani Bernard is certainly talented, Hill is more durable and the better pass blocker of the two. As Dalton looks to develop chemistry with the Bengals' new receivers, Ken Zampese would be smart to feed Hill the ball early and often, especially out of I-formation where Hill thrives. In 2014, Hill was the most effective running back down the stretch in the entire NFL, thanks to the Bengals' run-heavy approach.
Fullback: Ryan Hewitt
Jake Fisher was effective in Hewitt's wake last season, but the Bengals drafted him to be an offensive tackle, not a fullback. The Bengals would be smart in getting Hewitt on the field more often, as Hill is twice as good a running back when Hewitt is on the field versus when he's not. Undrafted rookie Andrew Bonnet was brought in to push Hewitt in training camp, but Hewitt should win the job.
Wide Receiver: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd
Green and LaFell are far and away the top two wide receivers on the Bengals roster, but Boyd will certainly be trying to get in the mix. Green and LaFell will likely start the season on the perimeter, while Boyd will see snaps in the slot. He'll face stiff competition from Bernard, Rex Burkhead, Mario Alford and other young receivers, but with a good enough performance, Boyd could eventually earn a role as a boundary receiver if the Bengals see fit.
Tight End: Tyler Eifert
Eifert is the Bengals' presumptive starter, but after undergoing offseason surgery, it's possible Tyler Kroft gets the start Week 1. If Eifert misses some time early in the season, Kroft, Hewitt and C.J. Uzomah will all compete for snaps. Kroft should see the bulk of the snaps, as he saw when Eifert sustained a stinger and concussion last season, but Hewitt and Uzomah will be close behind.
Left Tackle: Andrew Whitworth
Whitworth may turn 35 in December, but he's still an elite talent at offensive tackle. He was voted into the NFL's Top 100 Players of 2016 and looks to defy his age as he continues to excel at left tackle in Cincinnati. The Browns' Joe Thomas may have more name recognition, but Big Whit has an argument to make as the best offensive tackle in the AFC North.
Left Guard: Clint Boling
Fresh off an extension in the 2015 offseason, Boling played all 17 games last season, including the Wild Card playoff game. He likely won't face stiff competition in training camp, though rookie Christian Westerman could potentially push for snaps along the interior of the offensive line.
Center: Russell Bodine
Bengal fans have been critical of Bodine, but there's no arguing his durability. Bodine played every single one of the Bengals' 1,055 snaps in 2015, and though he had his fair share of bad plays, he had some very good plays as well. Bodine will need to work on his consistency in 2015; with young competition looking to de-throne him as the starter, the soon to be 24-year-old has a lot to prove.
Right Guard: Kevin Zeitler
Zeitler may be the best offensive linemen in Cincinnati, aside from Whitworth. One of the Bengals' two first round selections in 2012, Zeitler will be playing in a contract year unless he's extended before the start of the season. Cincinnati is certainly looking to lock him up now, as he could potentially earn a big payday if he hits the free agent market. But, the team has the cap space to sign him if he ends up hitting the market next offseason.
Right Tackle: Cedric Ogbuehi
One of the most highly-touted draft prospects in the 2015 Draft class before tearing his ACL in December 2014, Ogbuehi slipped to the Bengals with the 21st overall selection. With Andre Smith eventually making his way to the Vikings in free agency, it's now Ogbuehi's time to shine at right tackle.