COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Bengals have several names from the 2012 NFL draft just waiting to blow up in their sophomore campaigns. Guys like cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, tight end Orson Charles and even defensive tackle Devon Still all look ready to make an impact.
Not many folks are talking about defensive tackle Brandon Thomson. They should be.
Thompson is not the biggest name in the class and seems to be the forgotten one, even at his position as Still is the name usually brought up when talking defensive linemen from Cincinnati's 2012 class.
Yet, Thompson is the one who could have the biggest sophomore campaign.
Thompson acts as the backup at nose tackle behind leader and run-stuffer Domata Peko. The primary responsibility of the position is to shut down the run and provide supplemental pass rush, which isn't all that necessary in Cincinnati thanks to the prowess of the man in the actual defensive tackle spot, Geno Atkins.
There's one thing that points to Thompson seeing a wealth of opportunities next season, which is the loss of Pat Sims in free agency.
The past few years have seen Sims act as the primary backup behind Peko. He was an exceptional rotational piece that stuffed the run at an efficient rate. There were issues with injuries during his time in Cincinnati, but his effectiveness against the run allowed him to see a nice chunk of cash from the Oakland Raiders in free agency.
It's now time for Thompson to take things over as the critical rotational piece. He's listed in the 320 pound neighborhood, which gives him ideal size for the responsibilities he's being assigned. In his college days at Clemson, Thompson was a monster against the run, which is all Cincinnati really needs from him next to Atkins.
The thing that's important to note is we're not saying Thompson is going to light up the stat sheet. Sims never did but managed to have a massive impact on games. Expect the same from Thompson. Not only that, but even more is expected from him as he is being groomed to eventually replace Peko.
Other guys in Thompson's class will put up better stats, but each have their own issues to deal with. Kirkpatrick has never proven he can stay healthy, let alone play effectively at the NFL level. Both Sanu and Jones have been productive, but like Kirkpatrick, have failed to show they can stay healthy. Charles is stuck behind Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. Even Still will have issues seeing the field as he's stuck behind the best overall defensive tackle in the NFL today.
On the other hand, Thompson has the guidance of Peko and will get to come into games where opposing offensive lines have already been worn down. Not to mention he won't see a lot of attention with lines focused on Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, to name a few.
The stars are aligning for Thompson in 2013. He's poised for a breakout year while flying under-the-radar. While Thompson may not jump off the screen like skill-position players, he'll have a chance to do the dirty work in the trenches and help Cincinnati to another borderline elite unit under the guidance of coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Chris Roling is a graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, Fansided, The Cincinnati Enquirer and more. He is the co-host of a Cincinnati Bengals podcast, @BengalsCentral
You can follow Chris on Twitter @Chris_Roling
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