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PFF projects Bengals’ starting lineup

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The advanced analytics service also took a a look at the biggest position battle to watch.

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The hope is football will be back in our lives very soon.

Until then, we’re left to ponder what the 2020 Bengals will look like, and Pro Football Focus just took a stab at projecting Cincinnati’s starting lineup for next season.

Here is a look at how PFF thinks the Bengals’ starting offense and defense will look like come Week 1:

Offense

  • QB: Joe Burrow
  • RB: Joe Mixon
  • WR: A.J. Green
  • WR: Tee Higgins
  • Slot: Tyler Boyd
  • TE: C.J. Uzomah
  • LT: Jonah Williams
  • LG: Michael Jordan
  • C: Trey Hopkins
  • RG: Xavier Su’a-Filo
  • RT: Bobby Hart

Defense

  • DI: Geno Atkins
  • DI: DJ Reader
  • EDGE: Carlos Dunlap
  • EDGE: Sam Hubbard
  • LB: Logan Wilson
  • LB: Germaine Pratt
  • CB: William Jackson III
  • CB: Trae Waynes
  • CB: Mackensie Alexander
  • S: Jessie Bates III
  • S: Vonn Bell

The biggest argument I have is at wide receiver, where second-round rookie Tee Higgins is given a starting spot over John Ross. While Ross hasn’t lived up to his billing as a top-10 draft pick, he still did enough in 2019 to think he’ll be an impact starter in Year 4, which also may be his final year in Cincinnati after his fifth-year option was not picked up.

It just so happens that PFF balled Ross as the name to watch when it comes to how the starting lineup could shake out.

The Bengals declined Ross’ fifth-year option, making this a prove-it year for the speedster out of Washington. What remains to be seen is just how much opportunity he gets to prove it with Cincinnati’s selection of Tee Higgins to open the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. As PFF’s Steve Palazzolo put it in a recent piece looking at the players whose fifth-year options were declined, “His game-changing ability is still valuable if deployed as a complementary piece in an otherwise solid offense.” That speed and ability to produce big plays, despite the maddening inconsistency, could earn him a larger role than Higgins early on as the rookie adjusts to life in the NFL

As for the biggest position battle to watch, PFF went with the easy pick of linebacker.

Cincinnati certainly recognized that the linebacking corps needed to be addressed this offseason, bringing in three rookies and Josh Bynes in free agency to help solve the issue. Though he struggled a bit as a rookie in 2019 (51.2 overall grade), I think it’s safe to assume Germaine Pratt will maintain his starting status. Of the rookies, the first off the board — Logan Wilson — is likely to receive the most snaps. Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey were both strong values at their respective picks, falling a bit due to injury concerns. We may not know who will start for the Bengals at linebacker, but they will be better there next season than they were in 2019.

What was your biggest takeaway from this starting lineup projection for the Bengals?