Bengals rookies rarely do much, if anything under Marvin Lewis.
Unfortunately for Andrew Billings, that was the case in 2016, though it was injury that kept the mammoth defensive tackle from playing a single snap, even in the preseason.
Drafted in the fourth round out of Baylor in the 2016 NFL Draft, Billings was viewed as one of the best nose tackle prospects to come out of that draft. Going into the draft, Billings was widely viewed as a first-round prospect with many mock drafts pegging him to the Bengals at No. 24 overall.
Though that may have been a slight reach, few would have complained about the Bengals taking Billings there, so you can imagine how big of a steal it was to Draft him in the latter part of Round 4.
While Billings wasn’t viewed as a defensive tackle who can bring interior pass rush pressure, he did have 5.5 sacks in his final collegiate season along with 39 total tackles and 14 tackles for loss. For his efforts, Billings was a 2015 All-American and the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12. He finished his college career with 107 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in three seasons.
But Billings wouldn’t even make it to the preseason after he suffered a torn meniscus in training camp and ended up on season-ending I.R. when the Bengals announced their 53-man roster. He probably wouldn’t have played much with Geno Atkins, Domata Peko and Pat Sims getting most of the reps, though, it would have been nice to see him contribute in any ways, even if minimal. All indications are he’ll be fine for this year.
Looking ahead to the 2017 season, Billings' role will largely be determined by what happens this offseason. If Domata Peko is re-signed, it will be the long-time veteran along with Brandon Thompson and Pat Sims who compete for the defensive tackle snaps alongside Geno Atkins next season, which could leave Billings as a regular gameday inactive.
And you can never rule out the Bengals drafting another defensive tackle, especially with guys like Malik McDowell and Caleb Brantley in this Draft.
But if Peko is let go and no other defensive tackles are added, there's suddenly a real chance for Billings to have a big role next season. He's probably not going to be anything more than a situational run-stuffer getting 15-25 snaps per game, which is really the role Sims currently occupies. I think there's a good chance Sims or Thompson is let go during final cuts, especially if Peko is brought back. And of course, if Billings lives up to his Draft status and makes an instant-impact in practice (which is hard to do for a defensive lineman) maybe he could push out the veterans to take on a significant role in 2017.
Billings’ future is up in the air after an unfortunate injury caused him to miss all of his rookie year, so 2017 will essentially be his real rookie season.
What are your hopes for the 2016 fourth round pick?