Roster Analysis: Cincinnati Bengals

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Here is an in-depth look at the Cincinnati Bengals as they prepare for their season-opener against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, 1 p.m. ET.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Andy Dalton. Backup -- Josh Johnson.
It is the third straight season that the Bengals are going with just two quarterbacks. Dalton has more confidence going into his third season and has done a better job of making adjustment at the line. Johnson's accuracy is a bit of a question mark but he does provide something of a threat on read option plays.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, H-back Orson Charles. Backups -- Giovani Bernard, Cedric Peerman, Rex Burkhead.
Green-Ellis will continue to be the bellcow back. He didn't play much during the preseason but in the snaps that he did get, he showed a more physical style. Bernard gives the Bengals something they haven't had in awhile -- a change-of-pace guy who can catch it coming out of the backfield with speed to the outside. Peerman and Bernard will get some spot duty but are more likely to contribute on special teams. Charles struggled in blocking during the preseason so there are some doubts that it would work this time.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jermaine Gresham. Backups -- Tyler Eifert, Alex Smith.
The Bengals ran two tight end sets only 23.5 percent of the time last season and that is likely to double this year. Gresham took advantage of the multiple packages during the preseason and does well in yards after the catch. Eifert played in only two games during the preseason and struggled in route running. Smith is more of a blocking tight end but is familiar with the offense from his days in Tampa Bay.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu. Backups -- Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Brandon Tate, Ryan Whalen, Dane Sanzenbacher.
Green is one of the top receivers in the game and had a nine-game touchdown streak last season. He has bounced back after a knee injury the first day of training camp and appears to be 100 percent. Sanu is a physical receiver who can line up inside or outside and excels in yards after the catch. Jones can stretch teams vertically but needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball. Tate had a solid training camp as a receiver and has excelled in catching the ball over the middle. Whalen and Sanzenbacher are good route runners but will be used more on special teams. Hawkins suffered an ankle injury the first week of camp and is likely headed to the IR/recall list.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Clint Boling, C Kyle Cook, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Andre Smith. Backups -- OT Anthony Collins, OG/T Tanner Hawkinson, OG/C Mike Pollak, C Trevor Robinson.
Whitworth and Smith are two of the better pass protecting tackles in the league, but Whitworth missed most of training camp due to offseason knee surgery. If Whitworth is unable to go, Collins will take his spot. Collins has is one of the better pass protectors on the team. Boling and Zeitler were solid in their first full year as starters but Zeitler wore down a little toward the end of last season. Cook reclaimed the starting spot at center after Robinson struggled during the preseason. Hawkinson and Pollak offer some versatility as backups.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE Carlos Dunlap, NT Domaka Peko, DT Geno Atkins, RDE Michael Johnson. Backups -- DE Robert Geathers DE Wallace Gilberry, DT Devon Still, DT Brandon Thompson, DE Margus Hunt.
For the past two years the Bengals had a deep, talented defensive line. Dunlap and Atkins signed offseason extensions that will keep them here through 2018. Atkins had 12.5 sacks last season and went to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year but Dunlap is still trying to fulfill the promise he showed in 2010 when as a rookie he had 9.5 sacks. Johnson had 11 sacks last season and is looking to have a strong season as he is in all likelihood headed to free agency. Peko excels as a run stopper but has shown some pass rushing skills. Atkins and Gilberry have push-rushing skills and can be starters in case of injuries. Still and Thompson need to show more after hardly getting any playing time as rookies. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been a bit concerned about Still's inconsistency.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB James Harrison, MLB Rey Maualuga, WLB Vontaze Burfict. Backups -- Vincent Rey, Jayson DiManche.
With the loss of Emmanuel Lamur to a season-ending shoulder injury, the Bengals are in the market for an outside backer with coverage skills. Harrison gives Lewis something that he has been searching for since David Pollak's career-ending injury in 2006 -- an outside linebacker with pass rushing skills. Maualuga has had a good preseason but is mainly in base packages while Burfict has become more of a leader among the group. Rey and DiManche have versatility but both are likely to be used on special teams.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Leon Hall, CB Terence Newman, S Reggie Nelson, S George Iloka. Backups -- CB Adam Jones, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Brandon Ghee, CB Shaun Prater, S Taylor Mays, S Jeromy Miles, S Shawn Williams.
Hall is one of the more underrated corners in the league while Newman bounced back last year as he reunited with Zimmer and had very few mental errors. Nelson has improved in coverage the past two seasons but still has the occasional lapse. Iloka was strong in offseason workouts as he won the other starting safety spot as he is good in run support but also consistent in coverage. Williams continues to progress but Zimmer is averse to starting rookies. Jones is the third corner and has really cleaned up on technique. Kirkpatrick had a good start to the preseason but had an awful game at Dallas as he needs to be more consistent in technique. Mays, Ghee and Miles are likely to factor in on special teams.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Mike Nugent, P Kevin Huber, LS Clark Harris, KR Brandon Tate, PR Adam Jones
The Bengals ranked first in 10 special teams categories last season and have one of the best coverage units in the league. Huber is very good at pinning opponents inside the 20. Nugent is solid from inside 40 but has had periods where he has suffered slumps in the middle of the season. He has also finished two of the last three years on injured reserve. Harris has not had an unplayable snap in four seasons. Tate will be the main kick returner and split duties with Jones on punts. Jones was among the league leaders in punt returns last year and has not had a fair catch since 2006. Tate will still be indecisive at times but has got more aggressive.