Poll: Which Bengals’ Veteran Will Be The Most Influential?
The Cincinnati Bengals have had some great leaders in their four straight years of making the playoffs. They have even seen some young guys step into leadership roles and mature into pro-bowl caliber players. With the 2015 season a little more than two months away, the question is who will step up this season?
Vontaze Burfict was on and off the field with issues of concussion and then post season mirofracture surgery, he is set to return early in the 2015 season, baring any setbacks. He will be determined to return to his old self after seeing his performance and focus suffer during the injury filled 2014 season.
Burfict had an amazing 2013 season, stepping up after injuries to Geno Atkins and Emmanuel Lamur. He led the team to a top five defensive season and their third straight playoff berth behind defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who is now in Minnesota. If he can make a strong comeback and give a performance like 2013, every fan will forget about 2014 and his struggles to stay healthy.
Geno Atkins tore his ACL in 2013 on a Thursday night Halloween game against the Miami Dolphins. When he returned in 2014, you could tell something was still off, whether mental or physical, he was not the same pro-bowl player he had been in 2012. He has said numerous times that he is ready to return to his normal and dominate self in 2015.
Atkins was the most dominate forces in 2012. With 53 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles, he had burst onto the scene and excited Bengals nation with his performance. He was on his way to another dominate season with six sacks when all of a sudden he became a victim of an ACL tear that brought his season to a screeching halt. If he can get back to his 2012 and 2013 form, this defense has a chance to dominate the passing game and give the Bengals a shot against one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.
May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Andy Dalton has been the focus of many fans and media members tearing this team apart. He has been determined to not only make the playoffs but get over a 23 year slump of one and done playoff appearances. Unfortunately his attempts to this point have been fruitless, but not all of his attempts can fall on him.
Last season, Dalton saw impact player after impact player go down, from running back Giovani Bernard to receivers A.J. Green and Marvin Jones. Now he has every player back and healthy at this point and if they can remain upright, it should be a proving year for Dalton and the Bengals offense.
Andrew Whitworth is not only the leader of the offensive line, he is the leader of this Bengals team. His energy and passion for the game has surpassed any Bengal in recent memory and although his age has come into question, last season was arguable the best season to date for the Bengals’ captain.
Whitworth not only proved his passion for the Bengals by challenging them to find his replacement but then taking it upon himself in rookie camp to attend and work with Jake Fisher, since Cedric Ugbuehi is still recovering from injury. Whitworth has been nothing less than perfect late in his career and if it can carry over to the 2015 season, the Bengals have no choice but to give him an extension.
So now the question goes to you Bengals Nation,