The talent on the Bengals’ roster is undeniable, but the team still has indisputable weak spots even after free agency and the NFL Draft. Those weak spots could be classified as strengths if new additions to the team can provide a positive impact right away.
Here are five new players that need to provide early dividends to Cincinnati.
John Miller/John Jerry
Williams’ injury means that Cordy Glenn won’t be moving to guard. This means that Miller and Jerry will need to have an impact.
Clint Boling has been considered the team’s best lineman for the past few seasons, but he did not participate in minicamp due to injury. His play did regress a bit last year, so it’s not crazy to think he could be a cap casualty before Week 1.
With Boling and Glenn out near the end of minicamp, the team went to Christian Westerman rather than Alex Redmond or Trey Hopkins. Evidently uninspired by Westerman’s performance, the Bengals picked up veteran Jerry not long after minicamp broke.
The Bengals need Miller and Jerry to step up and solidify the guard positions.
The Bengals attacked their biggest defensive need in the third round by selecting Pratt. Pratt is an excellent tackler and has some of the best film in the class amongst linebackers. Despite that, Preston Brown and Nick Vigil are the likely “starters” at linebacker in 2019 when the defense is in nickel personnel.
Although Pratt is a converted safety, he is stronger against the run than the pass, so playing mainly in the “base” defensive package could be best for him at first. He should get a chance to compete for the third spot, playing mostly on early downs. Ideally he will develop as a pass defender and get Brown off the field in nickel.
The Bengals still have a need for a defensive end who can be kicked inside on passing downs to rush the quarterback alongside Geno Atkins. The Bengals tried Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard in this role, but to no avail. Wynn has not had a lot of success as a pass rusher in the NFL, but shows potential as an interior pass rusher. Atkins will generally draw double teams, which means Wynn will almost exclusively be in one-on-one situations.
If he can step up in this role, it would be huge for the Bengals’ defense.
Bengals fans do not trust Randy Bullock, and Vizcaino is his only competition. I’m not going to wax ecstatic about his mechanics or footwork because I, like the vast majority of football fans and even coaches, know very little about kicking. Vizcaino was, however, given five stars by Chris Sailer coming out of high school, and Sailer does know a thing or two about kicking.
Who knows? Maybe his leg is worth something.