During the course of the offseason, it has become increasingly clear that the Cincinnati Bengals are going to need to play their rookies early and often. Reason being, the Bengals are just not going to be able to keep everyone next season. With 16 starters working on the last year of their deals, it is important this rookie class gets acclimated to the NFL very quickly.
Looking at the depth chart, this may happen by default. In some spots, like left cornerback, there is really only one starter and one backup. This may pave the way for a rookie like Josh Shaw, the 6’0”, 201lb corner from Southern California. Shaw may see the field almost immediately if he has a strong camp leading into the 2015 season.
May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals linebacker P.J. Dawson (47) runs drills during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Another position of note is on the other side of the ball at tight end. With no more Jermaine Gresham, and the Bengals drafting two players this season at tight end, it is certainly going to be a focal point. Both rookies could see significant playing time. Tyler Kroft, a 6’5”, 246lb 3rd round rookie from Rutgers and C.J. Uzomah, a 6’4” 264lb 5th round bruiser from Auburn, help fill out the Hue Jackson offense quite nicely. Both Kroft and Uzomah have similar but different skill sets, and should see the field quite often in 2015, especially in specialty packages.
Offensive line could also get interesting for the 2015 Cincinnati Bengals. With their first two picks being offensive linemen, expectations for protecting Andy Dalton are now through the roof. Granted, Cedric Ogubehi, the Bengals first round pick may not see a whole lot of the field in 2015, given his injury, but more than likely, Jake Fisher the 6’6” 291lb 2nd round pick will be seeing the field sooner than later. Yes, the Bengals have Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth, but Fisher needs NFL experience and fast. With Big Whit and Smith both free agents at the end of 2015, Fisher will need to get over any rookie problems he might have and just absorb as much as he can from those two guys.
Finally, the rookie on defense who very well could get the most playing time is linebacker Paul Dawson. Dawson, a 6’0” 235lb absolute animal from Texas Christian, will more than likely be on the field in more than one package. Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther loves guys like Dawson and will be excited to see what he can do at this level. Dawson, who led the Big 12 last season in tackles with 137, should make an almost immediate impact.
With so many free agents on the horizon and frankly so much talent throughout the 2015 rookie class, the Cincinnati Bengals may field a very young team at times, but the experience gained from these games will only help these players in the future. The future in Cincinnati is young, but ready to take the field.