As the Cincinnati Bengals get set to start their inaugural training camp in the Zac Taylor regime, questions abound for the team’s future. In the immediate, it surrounds position groups like linebacker and the offensive line. For the long-term, quarterback, wide receiver and defensive line are under the microscope.
Regardless, the team is trying to shed many 3-13 stigmas put forth by the media when it comes to 2019 predictions. It starts this weekend with a brand new coaching staff for the first time since 2003.
While it’s up to the coaches to get the players ready to perform in these summer practices and exhibition matches, it’s on the players themselves to execute. And, with the vast majority of the roster coming from the previous coaching regime, many Bengals have something to prove to Zac Taylor and Co.
We discussed some interesting names who fall into that broad category on this week’s episode of The Orange and Black Insider. Essentially, there are two sub-categories when it comes to players needing to prove something.
The first is in guys at a crossroads with the team and are in jeopardy of losing their job. In this vein, a name like Jordan Willis comes readily to mind.
After a good pre-draft workout, Willis parlayed that into being selected in the third round by the Bengals. However, as a rotational player on the defensive line and occasional special teams guy, Willis has notched just two sacks and 45 total tackles in two seasons.
With Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson emerging over those past two seasons, Willis has taken a back seat, as some of those impressive pre-draft measurables have yet to show up with the Bengals. With his third defensive coordinator in as many seasons coming in with Lou Anarumo and Zac Taylor evaluating all of Marvin Lewis’ guys with a keen eye, it’s a big month for Willis.
The other sub-category in this “prove-it camp” is in the seemingly-entrenched starters, but need to play well to raise fan confidence. In that vein, a name like Dre Kirkpatrick comes to mind.
Last year, the vaunted trio of former first-round cornerbacks consisting of Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and William Jackson did not notch a single interception. The group excelled in press coverage and disallowed high completion percentages from passers, but the big plays just weren’t there in 2018.
If reports, videos and the preseason games show a new brand of confidence from Kirkpatrick and other facets of the defense that struggled last year, that will go a long way in relieving fears of the team’s potential—both inside and outside of the walls of Paul Brown Stadium.
There are a number of other examples to point at, making this camp one of the more intriguing ones in recent memory. Which Bengals players do you think need to have the best showings in training camp and preseason?
Also on this week’s episode:
- Will Tyler Boyd’s role be affected by his big, new contract?
- Does Boyd signing a new long-term deal with the Bengals point to a prevailing belief in the team’s viability under Zac Taylor?
- John and Anthony continue their countdown of potential Bengals breakout players.
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