With a new head coach and new players added in the offseason, the Bengals roster is in for a potential shakeup.
The Bengals needed personnel changes in several areas, and addressed some of those needs. There are some spots that have become vacant due to veterans leaving, i.e. Vontaze Burfict and Tyler Kroft. There are other spots that just straight up need an upgrade.
But the Bengals added nearly two dozen players via free agency, the draft, and signing undrafted free agents. Which positions are in for a complete overhaul? Which positions will stay the same?
Below is a list of each position group, in order of most competition to least competition.
Like last year, the offensive line has gone through a notable overhaul relative to the rest of the roster, so there are a lot of players with a lot to prove.
Jonah Williams will presumably start on opening day, but the main question is where. Right tackle would be a great place for him to land, but he played on the left side for two years in college and should have no trouble playing inside at guard. Regardless, he’s a great plug-and-play kind of guy that can go wherever they need him.
Newcomers John Miller and Michael Jordan will try to crack their way into the starting lineup as well. Returning starters Alex Redmond and Bobby Hart will have to fight for their lives if they want to keep starting. Redmond, Christian Westerman, and Rod Taylor will probably be on the chopping block, as well as Clint Boling, who might be a cap casualty.
Returning starters Nick Vigil and Preston Brown will keep their jobs, and Lou Anamuro will probably insert Germaine Pratt into the WILL spot left open courtesy of Burfict’s departure.
Behind them is where most of the competition will be. Jordan Evans will be a backup at one of the outside linebacker spots, while Malik Jefferson presumably will earn the opposite spot. But don’t count out Jefferson’s ability to play inside as well.
If he’s kept outside, Deshaun Davis and Hardy Nickerson figure to be the main competitors for the backup MIKE spot.
Other than the top two defensive linemen on the team, the defensive line is a bit uncertain. Obviously, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins will be there, but the other two spots on the line could be interesting. Andrew Billings will probably start on Day 1, but fourth-round pick Renell Wren could give him a run for his money. Behind them, Ryan Glasgow, Josh Tupou, Christian Ringo, and Niles Scott will all have to work for their living on the interior.
On the edges, Sam Hubbard should replace Michael Johnson as the “base” end opposite of Dunlap. Free agent signing Kerry Wynn and Jordan Willis may have to earn their spots on the depth chart. Carl Lawson will also have to come back from an injury, so while he has earned a consistent role on the defense in past years, that role might fluctuate as he returns.
The secondary is pretty cut-and-dry at the top of the depth chart, but the backup spots are still up in the air.
B.W. Webb and Jordan Brown are the only newcomers to this group, and probably won’t shake things up too much. Webb will probably be the second slot corner behind Darqueze Dennard, but Brown, KeiVarae Russell, Tony McRae, Darius Phillips and Davontae Harris will all have to compete for their spots on the totem pole.
Not that we thought that Andy Dalton’s job was in any danger when the Bengals drafted Ryan Finley, but Brian Callahan doubled down and assured the media that Dalton is still the starter.
Behind Dalton is where things get interesting. Jeff Driskel and Finley are going to have to “compete” for the number two spot. Driskel’s past experience as the starter in the back end of the 2018 season might help him, but Finley has better tape, so they will have to work it out during training camp. Plus, it’s hard to see Finley not having the upper hand after the club traded up for him.
Undrafted free agent Jake Dolegala will have a tough road ahead of him if he wants to make the roster at all. The practice squad seems like a safe bet for him.
The Bengals only added two receivers during the offseason in undrafted free agents Stanley Morgan Jr. and minicamp try-out Cory Contini. As with most groups, the bulk of the competition will be towards the bottom of the depth chart.
A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd are not going anywhere, and John Ross’ speed still makes him the top candidate to be the third starter. Behind them, the depth chart is still pretty weak. Alex Erickson’s backup slot spot will probably be safe from Hunter Sharp, so there won’t be much competition there. Morgan, Cody Core, Josh Malone, Auden Tate and Kermit Whitfield will compete for the wideout spots, though a few of them will have be on the practice squad next season.
Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard will probably keep their RB1 and RB2 spots, respectively. Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson, and Quinton Flowers will have to fight for the spots behind them. Nothing too complicated.
The roles here are pretty much set in stone. Tyler Eifert will be the primary tight end, but C.J. Uzomah may be the more traditional player at the position whereas Eifert might just be a big slot receiver in hopes of preserving him for the entirety of the season. Drew Sample will be a primarily blocking tight end/H-back and used similarly to Uzomah.
Behind them, Cethan Carter, Jordan Franks, and Mason Schreck will find themselves either on the practice squad or on the chopping block.
Specialists are athletes too. But the Bengals added no new specialists to the roster, so the pecking order should be exactly the same. The only change here might be a healthy Darius Phillips taking kickoff or punt returns.