Super Bowl contention feels right around the corner for the Cincinnati Bengals. Is their roster strong and settled enough for that?
Backup QB: Jason Campbell vs. A.J. McCarron
Common NFL knowledge says it’s best to have a veteran plugged in at backup quarterback during a season. That could explain why the Cincinnati Bengals chose to bring in former starter turned journeyman Jason Campbell. He’s a clear favorite to grab the #2 job behind Andy Dalton, but he can’t afford to get comfortable. While his shot at the starting job is slim, 5th round pick A.J. McCarron comes into camp with an enormous chip on his shoulder. The two-time national champion believed he should’ve gone higher in the draft, and may use that slight as motivation to climb his way up the depth chart.
Running Back: Jeremy Hill vs. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Giovani Bernard became the best weapon in the Bengals backfield last season. He’s going to get his touches one way or another. The question is will be he get the lions share of the carries. Logic says that is not the best idea given his limited size and bulk, which means the tough touches will go to the bigger, strong backs. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was that guy last season but his limited explosiveness was a constant problem despite his productivity near the goal line. Meanwhile the arrival of rookie Jeremy Hill, who brings not only size but also speed to the equation, certainly makes a veteran like Green-Ellis look expendable.
Cornerback: Terence Newman vs. Darqueze Dennard
The real mess to sort out for the Cincinnati Bengals is on their defense, particularly the secondary. Both the cornerback and safety positions are not settled quite yet. The most lingering concern is the age creeping up on the corners. Terence Newman is 35-years old and missed three games in 2013 due to injury. His spot is now under threat from 1st round pick Darqueze Dennard, the tough and physical kid from Michigan State who led his team to a Rose Bowl victory. With Leon Hall and Pacman Jones also aging, the coaches are likely to give Dennard every opportunity to earn a starting job. Newman may the weakest link.