Its not news to anyone that the Dalton Gang is relatively green, no pun intended. What may surprise people, is just how relatively junior this roster is compared to opening day. Just past the mid-point this season, the Bengals now have ten rookies on the 53-man active roster.
More impressive, this 1/5th is, for the most part, getting some significant amounts of playing time. Two, Zeitler and Burfict, are starting consistently now, and by the end of the season as many as five could find themselves out for the opening snap. To keep this going, of next Sunday’s starters only tackle Andrew Whitworth and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will have four full seasons or more in the NFL.
Defensively, the front four are a mix of the old and new, but the linebacker corps is young and will likely get younger next year. Also, while our secondary is currently one of the more senior in the NFL with three players in the tenth season or more, this too will likely see a youthful face life by next season as a rookie starter is a probable forecast at strong safety while across from him will be in essence a first season corner in Dre Kirkpatrick.
The point is that this is what happens when you start over, which is exactly what the T.Ocho Experiment of 2010 told the Bengals to do. It’s going to take some time to take potential to play-off caliber, and as predicated earlier this year, the gauge of this season is the degree and depth of experience that these young players can gain. That’s not a call to write the season off – rather, it’s an incentive to play closer attention.