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What NFL.com got wrong about the Bengals’ starting lineup

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Projecting a starting lineup isn’t easy, but NFL.com was way off about some things.

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In today’s NFL, so many teams run certain packages or rotate personnel so often that the arbitrary starting 11 on each side of the ball is hard to project.

Do you start three corners instead of three linebackers because that is what you spend most of the game in? What do you do with players like Carl Lawson?

These are complicated questions that NFL.com tried to answer by projecting their starting lineup for the Bengals. Here is what they landed on:

QB: Andy Dalton

RB: Joe Mixon

WR: A.J. Green

WR: Tyler Boyd

WR: John Ross

TE: Tyler Eifert

LT: Cordy Glenn

LG: Clint Boling

C: Billy Price

RG: Christian Westerman

RT: Jake Fisher

DE: Carlos Dunlap

DT: Geno Atkins

DT: Andrew Billings

DE: Jordan Willis

OLB: Vincent Rey

MLB: Preston Brown

OLB: Carl Lawson

CB: Dre Kirkpatrick

CB: William Jackson III

S: George Iloka

S: Shawn Williams

I would say they got most of it right. The Bengals have a fairly talented roster that has been held back by a struggling offensive line for the past two seasons. They also haven’t brought in any high profile competition at positions where they may have a struggling starter. Despite all of this it is pretty easy to see a few areas where they made a mistake. The first one being the linebackers.

They have Brown, Lawson and Rey as the starters. I get they don’t have Vontaze Burfict starting due to suspension, but this is still pretty inaccurate. Nick Vigil will have every opportunity to be the starter next to Brown. He is entering his third year, and before he got injured last season he was the starting linebacker who played next to Burfict.

Rey is a nice veteran presence and a good depth linebacker, but he isn’t starting over Vigil.

It would also be surprising to see Lawson as a starting linebacker. He did most of his damage at defensive end last season, so it is slightly puzzling to see him being moved like this. Unless he is used more as a linebacker who lines up near the line of scrimmage, I don’t see why they’d put him back there in coverage like that. He may prove that he can be productive from that position, but a day-one starter? I don’t see it, even with Burfict out.

The next surprise is Willis at defensive end. I wouldn’t say they got this wrong like they did the linebackers, but Willis was struggling to take snaps away from Chris Smith last season. It’d be shocking to see him take the starting job. Michael Johnson is clearly declining, but the Bengals have shown a reluctance to bench veteran starters for younger unproven guys. Willis would also have to beat out Sam Hubbard, who the Bengals drafted in the third round. Not to mention Lawson could fall into this spot by not producing at linebacker after having 8.5 sacks last season.

The one thing that plenty of people will have a problem with is the right side of the offensive line. The only reason I’ll disagree is because it’s obvious what the Bengals are going to do already. They did a nice job by projecting two linemen who could be the most productive, but barring an absolute mess of a training camp or injury, Cedric Ogbuehi will be at right tackle or right guard. The Bengals are undoubtedly going to give their former first-round pick every chance to prove there is a spot on this offensive line for him. They did the same thing last season after he was routinely beat in training camp. It took until Week 3 for the team to even rotate Andre Smith in at left tackle.

What do you think of NFL.com’s projections? Who do you think will be starting Week 1?