Every year, there is a player for the Bengals who is able to essentially come out of nowhere and be a huge unexpected force.
Commonly referred to as breakout players, the Bengals need some guys to breakout and become contributors if they want to change course from the struggles they have had the past couple of seasons.
If some of their younger players can be relied on and take the next step, we may see the Bengals make a push for the postseason. With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 5 potential breakout players for the Bengals.
1. John Ross
Some people may have a problem with this, as Ross is a much maligned player among the Bengals fanbase. Honestly, you could make the case that last year should have been his breakout year by being able to stay healthy and getting a big role while A.J. Green was injured.
But after missing all of 2017, 2018 was essentially Ross’ rookie year, and he clearly is going through some growing pains. This year, though, he is freed from Bill Lazor and Marvin Lewis and gets to work with Zac Taylor who saw how well a similar player could be used in Brandin Cooks with the Rams. If he is able to stay healthy, expect a big year from Ross in 2019.
2. Christian Westerman
Bengals fans have been hoping to see Westerman on the field ever since he was drafted. At the time, he was considered a steal that should have gone much earlier and this made Bengals fans excited to see him. Especially as the offensive line struggled and racked up injuries.
This year, Westerman is fighting for his roster spot, but he is also fighting for a starting spot. It looks like the Bengals recent free agent acquisition John Miller will be playing right guard, but with Clint Boling retiring, who plays left guard is a major question mark, and Westerman is definitely in play.
3. Sam Hubbard
The Jordan Willis experiment in Cincinnati has not yet yielded any great results. He has failed to tap into his great athleticism. At the NFL level, he’s functioned almost purely as a run stopper. If Willis continues to struggle as a pass rusher, the Bengals coaching staff may look at someone else to take the base down snaps at right end.
With no one else on the team really the right size to fill that hole, Hubbard would be in line for a big upgrade in snaps even over what he got last season with Carl Lawson out. Hubbard could take the flashes he had last season and perform even better.
4. Billy Price
The Bengals offensive line was much better in 2018 than it was in 2017, but it still wasn’t nearly good enough. The Bengals still go into the season with a turnstile at right tackle, but Glenn has shown he can play better at left tackle than he did in 2018. John Miller should be an upgrade for Alex Redmond, and Billy Price should be fully healthy and ready to make a positive impact for the team. Price is one of the biggest wildcards of the season. If he stays healthy, the interior offensive line at least should be much upgraded over where they were a season ago.
5. Darius Phillips
With Darqueze Dennard on a one-year contract, the Bengals do not have a long term commitment to him as their slot corner. In 2018, rookie Darius Phillips played in place of Dennard in several games and played very well. With the lack of commitment moving forward, as well as Dennard’s struggles in staying healthy, we may be seeing more of Phillips in 2019. With Phillips and key special teams player Tony McRae able to fill in if necessary, the slot corner position is in good hands if Dennard walks after 2019.