How has the Cincinnati Bengals roster/depth evolved over the years?
Thanks to Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin, head coach Marvin Lewis (Tobin and Lewis take on most general manager duties) and the Bengals scouting department, Cincinnati has vastly improved their roster compared to the dreadful lost decade or the age of helplessim -- when football silently weeped in Cincinnati.
We piece together a chart to see how the starting lineup has changed over the last three years and how it's projected to look in 2015. We should note two things:
- This isn't a true starting lineup -- we tried applying the Bengals philosophy by adding additional players who figure (or were) significant contributors during those seasons. Plus the starting lineup is really only one play; there are usually 60-70 more in an NFL game.
- There are instances where a player listed was sparingly used due to injury -- we incorporated those players anyway, because if injury weren't an issue, then they'd have played regardless.
|QB||Andy Dalton||Andy Dalton||Andy Dalton||Andy Dalton|
|RB1||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||Jeremy Hill||Jeremy Hill|
|RB2||Bernard Scott*||Giovani Bernard||Giovani Bernard||Giovani Bernard|
|FB||Chris Pressley||Orson Charles||Ryan Hewitt||Ryan Hewitt|
|WR||AJ Green||A.J. Green||A.J. Green||A.J. Green|
|WR||Andrew Hawkins||Marvin Jones||Mohamed Sanu||Marvin Jones|
|TE1||Jermaine Gresham||Jermaine Gresham||Jermaine Gresham||Tyler Eifert|
|TE2||Orson Charles||Tyler Eifert||Tyler Eifert||Tyler Kroft|
|LT||Andrew Whitworth||Andrew Whitworth||Andrew Whitworth||Andrew Whitworth|
|LG||Clint Boling||Clint Boling||Clint Boling||Clint Boling|
|C||Kyle Cook*||Kyle Cook||Russell Bodine||Russell Bodine|
|RG||Kevin Zeitler||Kevin Zeitler||Kevin Zeitler||Kevin Zeitler|
|RT||Andre Smith||Andre Smith||Andre Smith||Andre Smith|
|DE||Carlos Dunlap||Carlos Dunlap||Carlos Dunlap||Carlos Dunlap|
|DT||Domata Peko||Domata Peko||Domata Peko||Domata Peko|
|DT||Geno Atkins||Geno Atkins||Geno Atkins||Geno Atkins|
|DE||Michael Johnson||Michael Johnson||Wallace Gilberry||Michael Johnson|
|SAM||Manny Lawson||James Harrison||Emmanuel Lamur||Emmanuel Lamur|
|MIKE||Rey Maualuga||Rey Maualuga||Rey Maualuga||Rey Maualuga|
|WILL||Vontaze Burfict||Vontaze Burfict||Vontaze Burfict||Vontaze Burfict|
|CB1||Leon Hall||Leon Hall*||Leon Hall||Leon Hall|
|CB2||Terence Newman||Terence Newman||Terence Newman||Adam Jones|
|CB3||Adam Jones||Adam Jones||Adam Jones||Dre Kirkpatrick|
|S||Nate Clements||George Iloka||George Iloka||George Iloka|
|S||Reggie Nelson||Reggie Nelson||Reggie Nelson||Reggie Nelson|
There are clearly differences compared to obvious realities. For instance, Andrew Hawkins only started two games in 2012 -- Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Armon Binns started more games. Yet, Hawkins was the team's second-leading receiver. This list isn't meant to suggest statistical dominance in receptions or starts, but in this case, Hawkins contributions absolutely applies.
One interesting aspect about Cincinnati's roster is how little things evolved since 2012. Quarterback Andy Dalton, wide receiver A.J. Green (along with Sanu and Marvin Jones), has been an integral part of Cincinnati's offense and the offensive line, save for one change at center, has been as cohesive as any in the NFL. The combination of Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Domata Peko remains, save for Johnson's temporary departure in 2014. Linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga, along with defensive backs Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson, have been unmoved throughout their Bengals career.
As part with their offseason philosophy, the Bengals have successfully re-signed most of own players, reaching agreements (or extensions) with Dalton, Boling, Dunlap, Atkins, Peko, Maualuga, and Burfict, among others. Could there be a shocking realization if Cincinnati didn't sign the battalion of defensive backs slated for free agency this March, or reach extensions with Green, Zeitler, or Whitworth? Maybe. I suspect not.
Regardless, with nearly 30 free agents next season, many players understand this could be one of their final acts together.
"It could be there’s a lot of guys on our team in their last year and everybody knows not everybody is going to come back and we feel like we do have a championship team so you put those both together you almost feel like this year isn't make or break but is one of the bigger offseason and upcoming seasons we've had for a while," Hall said last month.
It'll be interesting to review this roster evolution by this time next year. Who stays, who goes, who knows. In the meantime, those organically developing Cincinnati's roster, has earned our trust.