The Cincinnati Bengals officially begin training camp when the veterans report on Tuesday, July 26. Which means we are just a little over a week out from starting the process of figuring out how the defending AFC Champions plan on getting back to the Super Bowl.
There will be plenty to watch for when the Bengals hit the practice field. But until that happens, let’s take a look at what we need to watch out for as we move forward.
1. Can Jackson Carman win a starting guard position?
The challengers: Cordell Volson, Hakeem Adeniji, Trey Hill, Desmond Noel
Everyone and their mother knew the Bengals had to fix their offensive line during the offseason and everyone and their mom also knew it was the Bengals’ top priority.
And not just a 1A-1B type of priority. We are talking about Mt. Everest compared to a molehill-type priority.
The Bengals took care of business by adding three viable starters through free agency. But there’s one starting guard position that remains open.
The thought is Volson will be Carman’s primary challenger. The rookie fourth-rounder has the traits to play guard in the NFL, it’s just a matter of how quickly he can adjust to the NFL. Carman should win the job, but that’s far from guaranteed based off what we know and saw from last year.
The wildcard: Hakeem Adeniji – look, he wasn’t the greatest when called upon last year and the former sixth-rounder definitely looks to be a reserve at this point. However, if neither Volson nor Carman take the needed steps required of them, don’t be surprised if the Bengals opt to go with Adeniji due to his experience and knowledge of the offensive system. It’s better to run with the devil you know, right?
2. Will Eli Apple hold on to his starting job?
The challenger(s): Cam Taylor-Britt
This is one of the more straight-forward battles of Bengals camp.
Apple struggled throughout his career until undergoing a rebirth, of sorts, last year with the Bengals. For the most part, he’s established himself as the No. 2 outside corner on this team.
But, Apple still has to show he’s capable of playing solid football at a consistent level. That is the one thing he hasn’t done during his career nor in Cincinnati.
Apple plays cornerback, which is the hardest position to play in the NFL, outside of quarterback. So, naturally, he should have a rather large leg up on CTB. Especially when considering Apple has a year of experience in Lou Anarumo’s defense, already.
The former Ohio State Buckeye can’t come into camp behind the proverbial 8-ball, however. Yes, the staff has mostly bought in, but a slow start from Apple combined with a fast start from Taylor-Britt will certainly muddy the waters for Apple and if the see-saw continues to lift in CTB’s favor, it won’t be a surprise if this staff makes a big move in regard to the starting lineup.
The wildcard: None. The No. 2 job will either remain Apple’s or become CTB’s. Unless something just goes horribly wrong.
3. Who steps up behind The Big Three?
The challengers: Stanley Morgan, Mike Thomas, Trent Taylor, Trenton Irwin, Pooka Williams Jr., Kwamie Lassiter II
There’s literally zero room to complain about the Bengals’ top three receivers. Any NFL team -present, past and future- would love to have these guys as the top-3 targets in their passing attack.
But there’s plenty of room to complain after those three.
That’s no disrespect to any of the players above, it’s simply the truth. And while, sure, we are talking about the WR4-5 positions, here. But, it’s important to have four good receivers in today’s NFL. Especially if a team is like the Bengals in the fact it doesn’t have a true receiving threat at tight end.
And, of course, you want to have a viable option in case of injury.
Morgan’s roster spot is likely safe due to his role on special teams, which likely narrows this list down to one player when it comes to winning the WR4 job.
Or, it could very well be someone that currently isn’t on the roster.
The wildcard: Unknown veteran – right now, the Bengals have 88 players on their roster and there are plenty of realistic veteran wide receivers to bring in. The Bengals also have cap space, so there is definitely a chance one more guy gets added in the very near future.
Featured image via Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports