Training camp goals
1. Find a second receiver. We all know what A.J. Green can do after his outstanding rookie season, but if the Bengals are going to take that next step as an offense, they need someone opposite him to emerge. Most have third-round pick Mohamed Sanu as the favorite because he is a physical receiver that the Bengals are lacking and can open up the short- to medium-passing game that was missing last season. Former University of Cincinnati standout Armon Binns continues to impress the coaching staff with his work ethic plus his ability to go up and make the difficult catches. The dark horse though is Brandon Tate, who averaged over 18 yards per catch with New England two years ago. Tate was mainly used as a returner last year.
2. Sorting out the secondary. When Leon Hall tore his Achilles in last year's Week 10 loss to Pittsburgh, many thought that he wouldn't be back until this midseason. But Hall's rehab has gone so well that he expects to be on the field for the first practice on July 27. Hall and Nate Clements are expected to be the starters at corner but the bigger problem is at safety where no one has stepped up to fill the void left after the release of Chris Crocker. Taylor Mays is the favorite to eventually win the spot, but he remains inconsistent in coverage. If Mays falters, either Clements or Jason Allen could move to safety which would open the way for first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick to start at corner.
Player to watch
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who signed with the Bengals after four years in New England. The Bengals want to go with a backfield by committee approach and that is best suited for Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott. Green-Ellis does not have the breakaway speed you would like in a back, but he does get the tough yards and excels in the red zone, which is two areas of the run game where the Bengals have struggled mightily over the past two seasons. Green-Ellis wasn't asked to catch the ball much out of the backfield with the Patriots, but he did a lot of it during offseason workouts with the Bengals. Green-Ellis is also more suited to a committee approach, which wasn't the case last year with Cedric Benson. He also never fumbled during his four seasons in New England.
On the hot seat
Linebacker Rey Maualuga, who is going into the fourth and final year of his contract. Maualuga moved back to his original position of middle linebacker last season and struggled. He was good in calling the plays and getting the defense ready, but there were many cases where he over-pursued a guy or was in the wrong spot. If Maualuga is going to show that he can be a leader in this defense and a consistent player, it has to come this year. Another thing that worries the Bengals if they were to make a long-term commitment to Maualuga is that he has been involved in off-field incidents two of the last three offseasons.
[Around the NFL: 2012 training camp schedules, fantasy advice and more]
Strategy and personnel
Cornerback Clements (abdominal) missed all of the offseason practices but should be set to go for training camp.
– DT Devon Still (back) missed most of the offseason workouts but should be ready for the start of training camp.
– HB Daniel Herron (foot) missed two weeks of the offseason program but is expected to be ready in time for camp.
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