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5 Position battles to watch going into Bengals OTAs

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There are quite a few areas of competition that will be decided on this offseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of the best parts about the offseason in the NFL is the competition for spots on the depth chart. Of course, starting spots are always the easiest to spot, but there are some heated competitions for spots as backups as well.

Backup quarterback

The quarterback spot is the most important position in all of football, so it stands to reason that the backup quarterback position is fairly important as well. The Bengals have lined up quarterbacks of all different skill sets to compete for the job.

Jeff Driskel is the only one who has been with the Bengals last season, but he is still recovering from an injury that he suffered at the end of last season. He has great mobility and looked good in the 2017 preseason.

Matt Barkley was signed this offseason to a two-year deal, which is rather unusual for a player you expect to be competing for a spot on the roster. Barkley is well traveled, and most of his experience came in 2016 when he started six games for the Bears while throwing eight touchdowns and 14 interceptions with a 1-5 record.

Barkley has the pedigree, and the Bengals’ offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was his quarterbacks coach for his first two seasons in the league.

Dark horse: Logan Woodside

The Bengals drafted him in the seventh round, and despite having the promise of being a quality backup someday, the Bengals will likely try and get him on their practice squad.

Right Guard

The offensive line is still somewhat of a mess. The middle and left side have been taken care of by adding Bill Price at center and trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn, but the right side of the line is relying on guys who haven’t performed to their potential yet to step up with new offensive line coach Frank Pollack.

The guys in the running include Trey Hopkins who won the starting job last season at right guard, but he was dinged up a bit during the year. The Bengals have also talked about trying him at center and tackle this offseason, but that could be more about them already knowing what he is at right guard.

The other guys competing for the spot include Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman. Both of these young guards have been talked up ever since they were brought in, but they have never managed to get on the field for an extended period of time until the last few games of 2017.

With the Bengals critically low on offensive linemen, they moved Clint Boling to left tackle and cycled Westerman and Redmond in at left guard. They didn’t necessarily blow anyone’s mind, but they proved they should be given a shot in the offseason at the right side.

Dark horse: Cedric Ogbuehi

If Ogbuehi fails to win the right tackle position no one should be surprised if the Bengals give him every shot at right guard to try and salvage anything from their former first round pick.

Right tackle

The right tackle spot should be one of the more interesting spots. After the Bengals let Andre Smith walk in free agency after he was a solid contributor at that spot, they are now allowing a couple of younger guys to put up or shut up.

Leading the list is Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher who have failed to really nail down a starting position since they were both drafted in 2015. They are both entering contract seasons.

Fisher is coming of a season where a heart condition ended his season, but that appears to be behind him now. The Bengals also brought in Bobby Hart from the Giants. He failed to really play well at all, but then again no one on the Giants offensive line has really performed.

Dark Horse: Bobby Hart

It is hard to pick a dark horse here because it seems like heading into OTAs that all of these guys have as much of a chance as succeeding as the other. Hart is the outsider, though, and he would really have to play pretty solid for the Bengals to play him over Fisher and Ogbuehi.

Defensive tackle

Obviously, Geno Atkins is starting, and no one is taking his spot. As far as who will be next to him is anyone’s guess. The Bengals have a group that includes Andrew Billings, Andrew Brown, Josh Tupou, Chris Baker and Ryan Glasgow. It wouldn’t shock me to see any of these guys starting next to Atkins Week 1.

I would say the favorites at the moment include Chris Baker, who was brought in as a free agent. He played fantastic two years ago with Washington, but it didn’t translate when he took the money in Tampa Bay.

Andrew Billings is probably also high up on the list. The Bengals thought they got a steal in 2016 when they got him in the fourth round, but after missing his rookie season due to injury and having an inconsistent year last season, it remains to be seen if he has progressed as a player to be able to handle that roll.

Dark Horse: Andrew Brown

Brown was a very highly recruited player when he landed at Virginia. He never fully fulfilled that potential, but the talent is still there. It could be said that he was focused on by offenses, so that would explain his lack of production, but he will have to prove that as he will have the blessing of being next to Atkins.

Returner

Alex Erickson is a fan favorite, but it is fairly obvious that he wasn’t getting it done in 2017. He averaged about seven yards per punt return and barely over 20 yards per kick return. He also has never returned a kick or punt for a touchdown in two seasons.

The Bengals brought in several players who could compete for either returning spot. Darius Phillips was electrifying at Central Michigan. He had 14 total touchdowns and six of those came on special teams (five kickoff returns and one punt return).

The Bengals also let Jessie Bates, their second-round safety, return punts during rookie camp, and he reportedly did pretty well.

Dark horse: Brandon Wilson

Wilson didn’t do a whole lot last season. He played some special teams, but he still hasn’t really found a position yet. With a competitive camp coming up Wilson’s easiest way to stay on the roster could be to win the returner job, which isn’t out of the question given his raw physical abilities.

Wilson didn’t return a lot of kicks in college, but out of his 44 kickoff returns two went for touchdowns while averaging 25.5 yards per return.