Call a tie to end the list a "cop-out" if you would like, but there are two players in the collective Bengals doghouse who need to show a lot in 2016 to get out of it. Though it isn't because of one specific play, Russell Bodine has been a major whipping boy for the fanbase since he arrived in Cincinnati via the 2014 NFL Draft. Some of the fan angst spurs from the team trading up to get him and subsequent high expectations, while the rest is in his inconsistent play over the past two years.
The coaches won't openly say it, but this might be a make-or-break year for Bodine. His sometimes-erratic snaps, inconsistency getting effective blocks at the second level of a defense, and the inability to anchor a position that has long been an Achilles heel for the Bengals all make 2016 a critical one in Bodine's career. For those reasons and more, Bodone tied with Jeremy Hill for the Bengals with the most to prove in 2016.
Why he makes the list:
Christian Westerman: The Bengals drafted a potential replacement for Bodine in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, former Arizona State offensive lineman, Christian Westerman. Though he is a guard by trade, the Bengals are also grooming him as a backup center for 2016, showcasing the versatility gene offensive line coach Paul Alexander loves out of his guys. Westerman was looked at as a second round prospect by many, so if he shows to be capable at the center spot, it could start to push Bodine out of the door.
No Noticeable Improvement: Over the past two years, Bodine has pretty much remained the same player. There are some subtle improvements, but part of Jeremy Hill's decline from 2014 to 2015 was due to Bodine's inconsistency in the middle of the line. If there was a bit more consistency shown in 2015 from Bodine, the questions about his long-term viability would be quelled.
What he needs to prove:
The Third Year Leap: It's often said that a players outlook in the NFL as a pro can properly be gauged during and after year three. It's how draft classes are often properly graded as well, so 2016 is huge for the rest of Bodine's career arc. If he can find a semblance of consistency and keep Westerman at bay, then he could finally become the answer at a position which has plagued the team since the mid-2000s.
Matching Technique with his Strength: Most fans know of Bodine's legendary upper-body strength, as he was the 2014 NFL Combine bench press champ. Alexander loves the big brutes who maul on his line, and while Bodine has flashed the ability, he relies on his strength over technique and leverage far too often. If he can hone the nuances of the position while keeping the upper-body strength, he should anchor the middle of the line for the foreseeable future.