After a busy offseason, the Cincinnati Bengals will look a lot different whenever they step on the field next.
The Bengals were unusually active in free agency, most notably upgrading the defense with five or six new starters, and they filled some important holes through the draft last week.
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Here’s a first look at what the depth chart might look like:
Starter: Joe Burrow
Backups: Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
With the Bengals releasing Andy Dalton, that settles any question whether Burrow — the No. 1 overall draft pick — will be the starter. Second-year players Finley and Dolegala will compete for the backup role.
Starter: Joe Mixon
Backups: Giovani Bernard, Traeyvon Williams, Rodney Anderson, Samaje Perine, Jacques Patrick, Devwah Whaley
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Assuming Mixon doesn’t hold out for a new contract, he will be shooting for a third straight 1,000-yard rushing performance in 2020. Bernard remains a solid No. 2, but the question this year will be whether Williams and Anderson prove healthy and productive enough to get some carries.
Starter: A.J. Green
Sarter: Tee Higgins
Starter: Tyler Boyd
Backups: Auden Tate, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Morgan Stanley Jr., Mike Thomas, Damion Willis, DaMarkus Lodge, Trenton Irwin, Scotty Washington
Higgins, the team’s second-round pick out of Clemson, is more likely to be healthy than Ross and brings some of the same skill sets, so he gets the nod for now, but the two-deep at this position looks pretty solid if everyone is good to go.
Starter: C.J. Uzomah
Backups: Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, Mason Schreck, Jordan Franks, Mitchell Wilcox, Moritz Boehringer
Uzomah has proven a capable replacement for Tyler Eifert and a leader for the unit. Sample could end up starting games but isn’t quite the playmaker Uzomah has shown to be.
LT: Jonah Williams
LG: Mike Jordan
C: Trey Hopkins
RG: Xavier Su’a-Filo
RT: Fred Johnson
Backups: Bobby Hart, Billy Price, Isaiah Prince, Hakeem Adeniji, Alex Redmond, Clay Cordasco, Josh Knipfel
Williams was the team’s first-round pick in 2019 and should be ready to go after missing his entire rookie campaign because of shoulder surgery. There’s more competition on the right side of the line, but Johnson impressed as he got more playing time at the end of 2019 and moves ahead of Hart. Adeniji, although a sixth-round pick, could compete for the right guard spot.
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LDE: Carlos Dunlap
NT: D.J. Reader
DT: Geno Atkins
RDE: Sam Hubbard
Backups: Andrew Brown, Josh Tupou, Ryan Glasgow, Carl Lawson, Khalid Kareem, Renell Wren, Trey Dishon, Freendom Akinmoladun, Kendall Futrell, Tyler Clark
Reader was a surprise expense added in free agency and should pair nicely with Atkins to solidify the defensive line, where there once again should be some depth with the addition of Kareem as a fifth-round draft pick competing for a spot alongside 2019 draftee Renell Wren.
WLB: Germaine Pratt
MLB: Josh Bynes
SLB: Logan Wilson
Backups: Jordan Evans, Markus Bailey, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Austin Calitro, Brady Sheldon, Marcel Spears Jr.
In Lou Anarumo’s multiple defense, the Bengals could be playing with a lot of two-linebacker situations in which Bynes and Wilson likely are the starters, but with the focus on that position in the draft, there could be more flexibility this year, assuming those picks pan out. Bailey and Davis-Gaither graded as good value additions and could surprise. It’s possible strong safety Shawn Williams is used more like a linebacker as well.
LCB: Trae Waynes
SS: Vonn Bell
FS: Jessie Bates
RCB: William Jackson
Backups: Mackensie Alexander, Shawn Williams, Brandon Wilson, Darius Phillips, Trayvon Henderson, LeShaun Sims, Winton Rose, Greg Mabin, Torry McTyer, Tony Brown
Bell is expected to come in as a starter and although he takes Williams’ starting spot, the seven-year Cincinnati veteran still has a place floating around the back end of the defense. In the nickel packages, Waynes will slide into the slot and Alexander can fill his role on the outside.
P: Kevin Huber
K: Randy Bullock
LS: Clark Harris
PR: Alex Erickson
KR: Brandon Wilson
Backups: Tyler Boyd (PR), Darius Phillips (KR), Dan Godsil (LS)
Wilson stepped in as a kick returner last year and surprised, so he likely earned the first look once again as the Bengals now have more options to keep Erickson just on punt return duties.
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