Monday, March 31, 2014
Projecting the Bengals' opening-day lineup
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- Spring appears to have finally come to the Queen City.
Monday may not be a national holiday, but here on the banks of the Ohio River, many of the region's workers are taking the day off anyway. Why? Because baseball has returned.
Opening day in Cincinnati is a little different than it is in most major league cities. It always begins with a parade and ends with an afternoon game at the Reds' Great American Ballpark.
The Cincinnati Bengals may be taking a backseat in this city on this particular day, but it doesn't mean we can't talk football anyway. As the Reds prepare to showcase their opening-day lineup, let's take a quick look at a possible Week 1 Bengals base rotation. Yes, there are still more than five months until the start of the NFL's regular season, but it's not too early to start contemplating the Bengals' lineup, right? Naturally, any number of unforeseen offseason events could change all of this, so remember, this is only a projection.
In the coming weeks, we'll have a more detailed look at a possible starting lineup. Compared to most teams, the Bengals are quite fortunate. They haven't lost as much starting talent this offseason, meaning their depth chart this fall ought to rather closely resemble the one from last year.
Lineup: Base Offense QB Andy Dalton -- Should make his 49th career regular-season start in Week 1.
RB Giovani Bernard -- Ought to have role expanded to have more touches, snaps.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- Will still be a key piece of the rushing offense.
WR A.J. Green -- He already has millions of reasons why he's the No. 1 receiver.
WR Marvin Jones -- Earned the chance to be the No. 2 wideout after his play in 2013.
TE Jermaine Gresham -- He and Tyler Eifert are hoping for another productive year.
LT Andrew Whitworth -- Pro Bowler who doesn't have Anthony Collins behind him.
LG Clint Boling -- He expects to be fully recovered from ACL surgery by Week 1.
C Mike Pollak -- Bengals have several options at center. He could win the starting job.
RG Kevin Zeitler -- Looking to make his 28th career start.
RT Andre Smith -- Another veteran tackle who shouldn't be challenged for first-team snaps.
Lineup: Base Defense LDE Carlos Dunlap -- Expected to emerge as the top playmaking defensive end with Michael Johnson gone.
DT Geno Atkins -- He expects to be fully recovered from ACL surgery by Week 1.
DT Domata Peko -- Recently re-signed lineman will bring leadership back to the line.
RDE Margus Hunt -- Three players will rotate at this position, but Hunt could win starting job in training camp.
SLB Vincent Rey -- Several could audition to play "Sam" linebacker, including Rey.
MLB Rey Maualuga -- After a solid enough 2013 season at middle linebacker, he should be back there.
WLB Vontaze Burfict -- He went to the Pro Bowl playing "Will" linebacker last season.
S Reggie Nelson -- Look for Nelson to continue blitzing out of the backfield.
S George Iloka -- Training camp challenges could come for Iloka, but he should start in Week 1.
CB Terence Newman -- The veteran will be back starting on the outside; a healthy Leon Hall will play nickel.
CB Adam Jones -- A productive 2013 will keep Jones in the 2014 base starting lineup.
Lineup -- Specialists K Mike Nugent -- He had two game-winning field goals last season.
P Kevin Huber -- He'll be back from a broken jaw.
DS Clark Harris -- The long-snapper remains in the rotation.
PR Adam Jones -- Jones gets back to punt-return duty with a healthy secondary.
KR Brandon Tate -- Tate was re-signed a one-year deal to primarily return kicks.