Bengals: Changing Their Stripes

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Jan 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) celebrates with running back

Giovani Bernard

(25) after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the first quarter in the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

In the Bengals Week 10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, the ghost of 2009 seemed to be leering omnipresent in the Queen City.  All the festive fervor that surrounded the Bengals as they strode into Foxborough in Week Five, undefeated and fresh off a Bye week, had been sucked out of the upper decks of Paul Brown Stadium, and a look ahead questioned if Cincinnati would even be able to salvage a playoff run.

Despite mounting injuries, the Cardiac Cats did just that, ripping out wins over the struggling Saints, favored Broncos, and even the nemesis Texans.  Though not without cost, Cincinnati went into its fourth playoff game in as many years with a decimated linebacker corps, rookie undrafted tight ends, and a group of mostly misfit wide receivers.  Even rookie sensation Jeremy Hill was not enough to overcome major weaknesses on both sides of the ball.

This season started with major transitions at both coordinator positions, seeing the internal ascent of both Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther within the organization.  However, through a season filled with injury, these final six games have exposed several players, suggesting the transitional period is likely to be ongoing.  Here are five of the most likely candidates to become part of Cincinnati’s crop rotation this off-season.