We are officially back into football, with meaningful games to be played in just over a month’s time. The Cincinnati Bengals have kicked off training camp and aside from a couple of early injury scares, things look promising.
While a good portion of camp is about knocking the rust off of the veterans, a large part of the process is getting to see how quickly some of the young players are catching on and improving. Because of some attrition on the roster from free agency losses, the team is needing to rely on young players for more prominent roles in 2016—particularly on offense.
Some of the players on this list may be obvious because of their previous high Draft designations, but a few others have shown the ability to break out in recent training camp practices. Here are five Bengals players on offense we feel have a good shot at being quality contributors this season.
Cedric Ogbuehi, Right Tackle: A guy who could be filed under “obvious” for this list, the former first round pick is taking over for Andre Smith on the edge. Coaches and players have raved about his athleticism, but he will have a stiff learning curve this year. Still, his great feet should prove he was a good pick for the team.
“I see what we saw when we drafted him,” Dunlap recently said, via Bengals.com. “He’s the most athletic I’ve seen. His arms are longer than mine, which is rare.”
While many others on this list would be luxuries as breakout guys, the team might most need Ogbuehi to be a success over any other in 2016.
Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver: Boyd is another player who might be an obvious selection for the list because of his anticipated heavy role as a rookie. Count this writer as someone who thinks he might end up being the best of an excellent rookie class at the position.
Why? For one, there is still a high amount of weapons on offense, even with the departures of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, taking some of the pressure off of him in 2016. Second, he has some of the best route-running skills of anyone in the 2016 Draft class. He’s already been showing off those skills early on in camp, too.
Quick, slick one on one by #Bengals second-round pick Tyler Boyd from Andy Dalton. pic.twitter.com/XO9SIaudJ5— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) July 31, 2016
It’s his astute ability to get open that gives him a leg-up on many other rookies who might be in a similar situation. If he can grasp the playbook, Boyd should be in the right place more frequently than other rookie wideouts, thus eliminating potential interceptions.
Jake Kumerow, Wide Receiver: The guy who was the talk of camp last offseason has been receiving more rave reviews this year. He’s still not a lock to even make the roster because of crowding at the back end of the receiver position, but his size (6’5”, 210 pounds) and hands have a lot of folks liking his potential.
He tweaked his hamstring on Sunday and has sat out since, which isn’t helpful to his cause in a tight race for limited roster spots. But his route to the final roster will be in preseason games. With Tyler Eifert potentially missing a few games to start the season, Andy Dalton will need another tall target to move the sticks and Kumerow could fit the bill.
Cody Core, Wide Receiver: It seems as if Core wasn’t talked about this offseason as much as guys like Kumerow, Mario Alford and Brandon Tate, but reports have him looking impressive early on in camp. He has good size (6’3”, 210 pounds) and seems to be moving well in drills.
Licata to Core pic.twitter.com/fNESQVGAcL— Kyle Phelps (@KylePhelps92) July 31, 2016
He still has some polishing to do, but don’t be surprised if he bypasses some of the aforementioned names, including the fan favorite, Kumerow. And if he does, he’s another big target who could really help out the offense towards the end of the season as he continues to grow as a pro receiver.
C.J. Uzomah, Tight End: Sure, Tyler Kroft is the more obvious choice here, especially if he has to fill in for Eifert as a starter early in the season, but Uzomah’s upside and athleticism is superior. It might be a bit of a reach to say he’ll “break out” in 2016, but he’ll definitely see more time in year two if Eifert has to sit out a couple of games.
I envision them using him on tight end screens, which were an Eifert specialty last season, where he can use the athleticism to get yards after the catch. News has been positive on him through the early part of camp, especially on Thursday, and he’s another guy who should really impress in preseason games.
Honorable Mention, Christian Westerman, Offensive Line: I lied and have a sixth player on the list. Westerman won’t likely break out in 2016 unless there is an injury on the interior of the offensive line and he’s pressed into playing time, but there are already signs he was a fifth round steal.
He punished defensive tackle DeShawn Williams in drills on Monday, and he’ll be nipping at the heels of Russell Bodine if there are more struggles up the middle.
First pancake of camp, and it wasn't Billings. Westerman just put DeShawn Williams on his back in half-line drill. #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) August 1, 2016