CINCINNATI BENGALS / 2013 TEAM NEEDS
The talented trio of coordinator Jay Gruden, QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green are back, but this unit needs even more punch after its second consecutive postseason dud against the Texans. Dalton has a good grasp on Gruden’s West Coast offense; what he needs is to play more consistently, and a receiver who can take double teams away from Green. Getting healthier is a good start.
TOP 3 OFFENSIVE NEEDS
RB — The Bengals have a strong inside runner in BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but they could use a quick pass-catching back to complement the rugged Green-Ellis. What’s more, veteran RBs Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard are slated to be free agents. Overall, the Bengals need to improve their depth at this key position.
WR— The Bengals have the makings of solid WR depth, with Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones each showing promise as rookies. That said, they could stand to improve their options opposite of Pro Bowler Green, who draws plenty of attention from opposing secondaries. The Bengals need to continue to surround Dalton with playmaking talent.
OT — ORT Andre Smith can test free agency. If he departs, right tackle will be a need. Even if he returns, bolstering the OL depth makes sense for the Bengals, who had to deal with injury issues up front from the outset of last season, when OG Travelle Wharton and C Kyle Cook were hurt.
Mike Zimmer’s well-coached group tied for the NFL lead in sacks. One of the best interior rushers in the game, DT Geno Atkins is the catalyst that helps create opportunities for DEs Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. LB Vontaze Burfict was a pleasant surprise who should build off his rookie success. CB Leon Hall highlights a secondary that will benefit if CB Dre Kirkpatrick can stay on the field.
TOP 3 DEFENSIVE NEEDS
LB — The Bengals could use reinforcements both at middle and outside linebacker. MLB Rey Maualuga will be a free agent and hasn’t been a standout in his four years in Cincinnati. WLB Thomas Howard can also test the market and missed the season because of injury. The Bengals have one sure LB starter in Burfict and some questions thereafter.
S — The Bengals searched for an answer at strong safety throughout this past season before finally turning back to Chris Crocker. Crocker will be an unrestricted free agent, as will Nate Clements, who also got a look at strong safety. This is the only glaring need the Bengals have on the back end.
DE — It was hardly surprising Johnson was given the franchise tag, given the premium teams will pay for pass-rushing talent. But the Bengals have successfully built a strong, deep defensive line through the draft, and sticking to that blueprint this April shouldn’t surprise anyone.
2012 DRAFT REWIND
1st round (17): CB Dre Kirkpatrick / Alabama (GP/GS: 5/0)
Skinny: Incomplete grade due to injury-riddled campaign.
1st round (27): OG Kevin Zeitler / Wisconsin (GP/GS: 16/16)
Skinny: Strong rookie campaign with only a few hiccups.
2nd round (53): DE Devon Still / Penn State (GP/GS: 8/0)
Skinny: Showed some promise as rotational run-stuffer.
3rd round (83): WR Mohamed Sanu / Rutgers (GP/GS: 9/3)
Skinny: Big red-zone target was just emerging before breaking foot.
3rd round (93): DT Brandon Thompson / Clemson (GP/GS: 3/0)
Skinny: Like Still, made most of limited opportunities.
4th round (116): TE Orson Charles /Georgia (GP/GS: 16/6)
Skinny: Highly athletic, but failed to make splash behind Jermaine Gresham.
5th round (156): CB Shaun Prater / Iowa (GP/GS: 0/0)
Skinny: Suffered season-ending knee injury in training camp.
5th round (166): WR Marv Jones / California (GP/GS: 11/5)
Skinny: Fast and physical, Jones showed well after early knee injury.
5th round (167): FS George Iloka / Boise State (GP/GS: 7/0)
Skinny: Was not ready to get on field as a rookie.
6th round (191): RB Dan “Boom” Herron / Ohio State (GP/GS: 3/0)
Skinny: Only real contribution came on special teams.
SUMMARY: Plenty of intrigue, but injuries ravaged this class, making it likely that 2013 will be a better indicator.
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