It’s another rendition of the preview of competition at training camp. The Bengals are notorious for carrying an arsenal of weapons at wide receiver and tight end. While the starting lineup is fairly certain, we will look at who is in and who is out at receiver, tight end and quarterback.
Please look out for other competition articles.
Quarterback Andy Dalton is still in control at the helm, and as long as he is healthy, he will be all season. Since joining the Bengals in 2011, he has made the pro bowl three times and leads the Bengals to five consecutive Postseason berths and two AFC North Division titles. The Bengals also gave Dalton a six-year contract worth $96 million. Needless to say, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
AJ McCarron is still slotted as the backup for Dalton and is considered the second best backup in the NFL. The fifth round pick may have seen limited play in the regular season, but he has shown he has what it takes to lead the team to victory when called upon. When Dalton was sidelined in 2015, McCarron started for three games going 2-1. McCarron may become a starting quarterback with another team one day. But for now, the Bengals keeping him is great insurance.
The only player that realistically has competition is Jeff Driskel. However, his competition is not with Dalton or McCarron, but the rest of the team. The Bengals do like Driskel and had him on their roster in 2016. That being said, having three quarterbacks does not always make sense and is most often considered a luxury. It also doesn’t help when you’re intercepted in training camp while trying to make a good impression. Expect Driskel to miss the cut on the 53-man roster while the Bengals look to use the slot at another position of need.
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The Bengals will continue to use AJ Green and Brandon LaFell as their one, two, while John Ross is projected as the slot receiver. This projection goes in line with what has been going on in training camp. While Ross has been continuing to improve in camp, and the Bengals are focusing on preparing him for play when he’s able to return. Ross will have a role in the offense and hope that it expands as he continues to learn the playbook and play at the NFL level.
The other safe assumption is that Tyler Boyd continues to stay on the team. During the 2016 season, Boyd was frequently targeted on third down in the slot position. Boyd finished his first season with 54 receptions and 603 yards. If the Bengals use four wideout packages, you can expect him to be on the field as well.
This leaves two slots for eight receivers, but a few of them are more than likely fighting for a chance on the practice squad. Signing Levonte Whitfield to the 90-man roster helps improve the competition. However, unless he makes a stellar impression on the special teams unit, his chances of joining the roster are virtually nil. Karel Hamilton is in the same position. While the Bengals signed him as an undrafted free agent, it appears that Hamilton will only be competing for a spot on the practice squad. Alonzo Russell was able to make a touchdown reception from quarterback AJ McCarron in training camp. However, even he is not projected to make the 53-man roster.
Cody Core and Alex Erickson are two receivers on the bubble. As stated in the special teams’ post, Erickson is a speedster return specialist. But Core has learned a lot in his first year and made large contributions to the Bengals special teams as well. There are debates who will make the roster, but projections have Core staying on and Erickson leaving. It is possible that the Bengals keep both and have seven receivers on the roster, but the outlook appears doubtful.
Tyler Eifert loves the Bengals and the Bengals love Eifert. At the beginning of the 2016 season, Des Beiler of the Washington Post ranked Eifert as the ninth best tight end for fantasy football for the 2016 season. Kenneth Arthur ranked him at thirteen in July entering the 2017 season. Eifert came back half way through the season after recovering from both an ankle and back injury. Barring some major catastrophe, Eifert will stay on the field as the number one tight end.
With the exception of Tyler Kroft, tight ends C.J. Uzomah, Ryan Hewitt and Mason Shrek will have to battle for the remaining slots. Cincy Jungle Jason Macrum predicts that the tight ends, with the exception of Shrek, will be on the final roster. However, Uzomah and Hewitt are prone while Hewitt is utilized as a back more than a tight end. Rookie Shrek does have a chance to make the roster, but the odds are not in his favor. Either Shrek surprises coaches and takes Uzomah’s spot or at most makes the practice squad.
The first game of the preseason is Friday, August 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For the list of live coverage for the game in your area, click here.