Bengal Quick Takes: Projecting starters 2

May, 21, 2014
May 21
8:45
AM ET
We've spent this week giving an early look at what the team's potential depth chart might resemble when training camp opens July 24.

On Monday, we broke down Cincinnati's offense. On Tuesday, we did the same with the defense. And yes, we're even taking a quick look at the special teams units later Wednesday. You can't leave out the dear punters, kickers, long-snappers and returners.

As we get Wednesday's Quick Takes going, we begin with a deeper look at the defensive projections from Tuesday:

1. The difficulty of defensive projections. This may go against the purpose of my post-draft depth chart posts, but be careful of reading too far into any projections at this point, or even when the season begins, when it comes to the Bengals' defense. Why? Because the Bengals won't be staying true to the position-specific labels. You'll find in their multiple, base 4-3 defense that the Bengals are going to rotate their defensive ends all over the line. Some will play on the side opposite of where they're listed on the depth chart. Some will play on the interior of the line in certain pass-rush situations. Some will get stood up and pushed off the line of scrimmage as pseudo-outside linebackers. The linebackers won't follow a simple strongside-middle-weakside setup either, as different situations might call for a middle linebacker to play on the outside, or vice versa. And aside from the true boundary cornerbacks, there is very little distinction between some of the slot corner and safety positions the Bengals use in their defense. There are some safeties who will be asked to cover as corners, and some corners who might have to play in space as a safety. For that reason, the term "defensive back" is a more accurate way to describe certain members of the secondary.

2. Having said that ... The Bengals still have a defense that's full of identifiable linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. Aside from adding a couple of corners, a couple of linebackers and a defensive end -- all for depth purposes -- the Bengals really didn't need to draft many players on defense. Cincinnati's defensive core returns this season, minus end Michael Johnson and linebacker James Harrison. Johnson's departure was expected for some time and is one reason why Margus Hunt was drafted in the second round last year. Harrison's strongside linebacker role wasn't a major part of the Bengals' defense last year and doesn't figure to be this year. Still, the search is on for the next run-stopping linebacker who can very occasionally step up and cover in space. As loaded as the Bengals may be at each of their positions for now, some drastic personnel changes will be coming between now and September. More than 40 defensive players are either under contract or were recent draftees still waiting to sign. Many of them will not be making the 53-man roster. Still, it has to be good to have options for now, especially for a unit that's returning a good chunk of its personnel.

3. Hue Jackson, offseason MVP? Hopefully you had a chance to check out this column from Tuesday about the offseason move that yours truly believes has been the Bengals' best this year. And no, it doesn't include a player. It has to do with assistant coach Hue Jackson, who was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator following Jay Gruden's departure for Washington's head-coaching job. It was the best move of the offseason for a team that hasn't made many moves, and it was the perfect hire to help propel the area of Cincinnati's offense that needed the most attention: the running game. Sure, some of the Bengals' ground-game struggles last season were the result of poor execution, but a lot of them also were the product of schematic issues. Running wasn't as large a focus for them as it should have been. Jackson has already vowed to fix that, and clearly took steps to do so in the draft by getting the organization to grab a physical back in the second round in Jeremy Hill, and a strong interior lineman in Russell Bodine in the fourth round. If the Bengals can maintain a little more balance and run the ball more often than they did last year, they may finally get that elusive playoff win. If that happens, we ought to credit Jackson. After all, the Bengals weren't very physical in their last three playoff games. We'll see how much physicality Jackson actually brings.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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