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4 position groups the Bengals should be confident in this offseason

Though there are still significant questions at certain spots on the Bengals’ roster, some positions are stacked.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

While the Cincinnati Bengal have made some strides to improve many areas of their roster, there are still some questions remaining. Linebacker, while crowded, remains a bit of a mystery as to how it will look in 2018. Meanwhile, right guard and right tackle are also unsettled.

Still, there are a handful of positions that the Bengals seem to be pretty stacked at this season. Because of that, interesting roster battles are set to take place during training camp this summer. Here are some of the most crowded position groups as the Bengals head into the summer.

Safety: Anytime you add a second round player to a position, the profile level of the group raises significantly. Said player is former Wake Forest safety, Jessie Bates III, who appears to have an immediate inside track as a guy who will be on the field in various packages in Teryl Austin’s system.

George Iloka and Shawn Williams are the incumbent starters at the traditional safety spots, and while both have had solid careers, they had a bit of a dip in production last year. Clayton Fejedelem is a valued special teams member, while the enigmatic Brandon Wilson will try to carve out a final roster spot, as both will be fending off Tyrice Beverette and Trayvon Henderson.

The wild card here is Josh Shaw. He’s listed as a cornerback, but has had experience at safety as well. He could be another Swiss Army knife kind of guy for Austin this year. That said, he’ll need to prove a lot to maintain his role on the team with the addition of Bates and two cornerbacks this year.

The Bengals have long-liked to play in a nickel base formation, but it sounds as if Austin will tweak it even more this year in an effort to get more big plays and turnovers. But, if history has told us anything, we’ll likely see guys like Bates and Shaw in roles similar to what Chris Crocker played a handful of years back.

Cornerback: Even though the team lost its most tenured player in the group in Adam Jones, this still is a crew ripe with talent. William Jackson has been the offseason darling for NFL analytics gurus, while Dre Kirkpatrick will be flanking him on the other side.

We already mentioned the swingman Shaw, but another former first round corner, Darqueze Dennard, should have a high-profile role in the slot as he looks for his next contract. Former third round pick KeiVarae Russell will definitely be in the mix for a roster spot again.

But, Austin likes the two fifth round corners the team added this spring. Davontae Harris and Darius Phillips give the team’s new defensive coordinator a lot of added firepower, in terms of potential for game-changing plays.

Usually, the team keeps about five true corners every year. Again, with Shaw being a swing guy, the team might go with five others beyond his roster spot and some of their high investments will be roster locks.

Wide receiver: Every year, the Bengals keep at least five, if not six wide receivers, and every year it seems that the team largely know who those faces are. In 2018, A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, John Ross and Tyler Boyd are locks.

For the remaining two spots, a number of players will be grinding for an active spot. Cody Core, Alex Erickson and Josh Malone are the front-runners, given their past roster statuses.

The kicker at this spot will be who can also give the team help on kick and punt returns. The coaching staff still seemingly has their reservations about Ross, but he might ease into a pro role by returning kicks, which was one of his fortes at the University of Washington.

Ka’Raun White is one of the most interesting undrafted free agents of 2018, while fellow undrafted guys Kermit Whitfield and Devonte Boyd will be grinding out possible spots. Seventh round pick Auden Tate could make a legitimate shot at making the team, especially if he can use his 6’5” frame to become a viable red zone threat.

Defensive end/edge rushers: This totally depends on how you look at certain players and how they’re listed on the team’s official roster.

Carl Lawson, one of the team’s best overall pass-rushers based on his rookie campaign, is listed as on outside linebacker and he may even take more snaps in a traditional-looking role. Still, he’ll be relied on heavily to get to the passer—especially with his increased bulk this year.

Fellow 2017 draft mate, Jordan Willis, might be seeing an increase in snaps of his own this year, even if it means a sacrificing of those from veteran Michael Johnson. Carlos Dunlap hasn’t been at OTAs, but the consensus is that he won’t miss a beat and continue to give the team the usual near-double-digit sacks they’ve been accustomed to.

The biggest transition will be with Sam Hubbard taking over for Chris Smith. After the team swing a trade for Smith last offseason, he was a nice rotational pass-rushing piece for the defense, getting three sacks (a tie for his career-high).

In recent seasons, guys who have had outstanding preseasons have clawed their way on the teams’ roster. Whether it was Smith or Chris Carter a couple of years ago, the preseason has been a big step for some youngsters to make the final roster. By that regard, Gaelin Elmore and Ja’Von Roland-Jones might make an unlikely push.