Cincinnati Bengals: Top Five Training Camp Battles

4 of 6

Dec 22, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko (94) reacts to a defensive stop in the second half against the Denver Broncos at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 37-28. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Domata Peko vs. Pat Sims vs. Devon Still

Last season, the Bengals ranked dead last in sacks with only 20 on the year. In just a couple years, the Bengals went from first to worst. After losing Michael Johnson in free agency, dealing with Domata Peko‘s decline, and with Geno Atkins still recovering from his torn ACL, it quickly became apparent that Cincinnati really needed help on the line.

Ironically, the Bengals brought back Johnson in free agency as well as another former Bengal in Pat Sims. They also addressed the defensive line in the draft by acquiring Marcus Hardison in the fourth round.

Typically, the Bengals keep four defensive tackles. Geno Atkins should return to form this year and is a lock as a starter. Brandon Thompson is another lock to make the roster due to him being labeled as a player Marvin Lewis would like to “see more of.” Next, Marcus Hardison is a lock as there is no way he can slip past waivers and land on the practice squad. He also possesses a ton of upside. As a fourth round pick he should be on the final roster.

This leaves the leadership of Domata Peko, the efficiency of Pat Sims and the unfulfilled promise of Devon Still to fill the final spot. Peko brings leadership to the defensive line, but his actual play has declined over the years. Pat Sims has always been a great run stopper and offers at least something as a pass rusher.

Devon Still is simply a question mark. He has had off-field issues that took his mind away from the game. Obviously no one could have asked Still to focus on football, but now that his daughter, Leah Still, is healthy, Still can go back to dominating the way he did at Penn State. It will make for and interesting training camp battle. The Bengals may have to keep five tackles this year.

Next: Running Back