Think about how little depth the 53-man roster provides. In a sense, it means 59% of the guys on an NFL football team only have one other man for their specific spot on the field. Try getting through a 16-game season with a depth chart that’s about as shallow as the pool that the Cleveland Browns are allowed to play in.
So, when we talk about deep position groups, you won’t hear us say a lot of names – because there isn’t room for them. But we still smile when we think of these positions on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster because these few names can produce a lot of numbers. Touchdowns, interceptions, yards per carry, and on and on.
Names: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Auden Tate
This group has more grabby hands than a high school crowd on prom night. Start with A.J. Green, in his worst statistical year (2016, when he only played 10 games), he caught 66 passes for 954 yards at 14.6 yards per catch – oh darn. He’s one of the NFL’s best, and this should be the year he gets some serious help.
Josh Malone, the second year-man out of Tennessee, and speedster John Ross have been causing some camp buzz. With Brandon LaFell being released, the Cincinnati Bengals will look to Malone to assume a larger role in the offense. Ross is ready to atone for a disappointing, injury-riddled freshman campaign.
And if you like the speedster Ross, you’ll love the tallster Auden Tate. The seventh-round pick from Florida State has flown under the radar in the last few months – which should be impossible, given his 6‘5” frame. Having him in the red zone will put opposing DBs on red alert.
In case you’re wondering, no, we didn’t forget about Tyler Boyd. If last year was an Oreo cookie, Boyd missed the creme filling with a knee injury – and his stats (22 catches, 225 yards) showed it. But he more than doubled those numbers in 2016, so the ability is there. Quarterback Andy Dalton’s biggest problem is going to be choosing among them. Oh darn again.
Names: Giovanni Bernard, Joe Mixon, Mark Walton, Brian Hill, Tra Carson
The one-two punch of Bernard and Mixon should get Cincinnati Bengals fans primed. Bernard has been versatile, averaging 580 yards rushing and 412 receiving per season over the last five years. That’s balance.
Mixon has a different kind of balance. The kind that involves you losing yours as he flattens you. At 6’1”, the 228-lb Mixon can get the tough yards between the tackles. His first-year numbers (913 yards from scrimmage) were pretty similar to Bernard’s career averages, so there shouldn’t be a dropoff when one subs for the other. And Mixon’s totals will only go up as he spends more time in the league and gets better line play in front of him.
Rookie Walton, like Mixon, is young with tons of upside. If the Cincy brass are smart enough to keep both of them, then in the coming years, the team will have the best R&B duo since Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross soothed audiences everywhere with “Endless Love.”
Names: Darqueze Dennard, William Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick, KeiVarae Russell, Davontae Harris, Darius Phillips, Tony McRae
The top 3 corners are all first round draft picks (Dennard, Jackson, Kirkpatrick). That tells you something about the talent. Plus, Kirkpatrick is the oldest at only 28 years old. That tells you something about the future.
Kirk defended 14 passes last year (the second most of his career), made 47 tackles and returned his sole interception 101 yards. Note how we didn’t say returned for a TD (just watch the video). Only in Cincinnati could a guy run further than 100 yards and not score a touchdown.
Dennard played in all 16 games last year and started 6 of them. He made the most of the time, picking off two passes and logging 59 tackles and 2 sacks. As a rookie, Jackson started 5 games, defended 13 passes and returned his lone interception 75 yards for a score.
None of these numbers are necessarily All-Pro, but Cincinnati Bengals fans can rest easy that a broken ankle doesn’t break the season.