The Bengals have always put veterans ahead of younger players, not caring about where or when they were drafted. Sadly for some vets, the Bengals could be looking to change the culture with some of the talent coming in.
If you’ve been a close fan of the Bengals, you know the story already. Coaches don’t want to have younger players start or get significant playing time early on. Well, what if I told you that it was time for a change and it’s for the better? The Bengals had a massive influx of talent on offense that could change some things up for sure. If you don’t even look at the rookies, there are definitely various factors that can lead to veterans being “on watch.” Many young players that haven’t been given the chance to prove themselves, due to injuries, will finally get their shot.
With some young players finally getting the chance to succeed and show why they were drafted, veterans could be on the outside looking in. There are definitely more starting spots to be had on the offensive side of the ball due to O-line woes. The Bengals aren’t getting any younger and some of the players that were considered a part of that young core 5-6 years ago are getting up there.
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Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do with LaFell and all to do with what the Bengals did in the offseason. The Bengals drafted two receivers in the first 4 rounds who have decent speed and are capable of taking over. John Ross was drafted to eventually take over the #2 receiver spot from LaFell. Brandon’s production was better than expected. Many fans figured he would be a drop-freak and wouldn’t be that reliable. LaFell ended with 862 receiving yards and six touchdowns on the season. Those are truly decent numbers coming from a veteran receiver the Bengals picked up for pretty much nothing.
I don’t expect LaFell to be cut yet, but you can definitely expect him to receive fewer snaps due to newly added receivers. If LaFell can’t produce like he’s expected, don’t be surprised if he’s benched near of the end of the season.
Michael Johnson was once considered a stud run defender and decent pass rusher until he signed with the Buccaneers and came back a different player. He’s gotten a combined 8.5 sacks in the last two years, nothing compared to the production expected of him. The Bengals answered by drafting two defensive ends in the draft, Jordan Willis, and Carl Lawson. Willis and Lawson were both seen as huge steals from where they were projected to go. Willis was pegged to be late 1st/early 2nd and Lawson was expected to be drafted in the 2nd round. By adding these two immense talents, the Bengals are putting pressure on Johnson.
If Johnson doesn’t produce, don’t be surprised if he’s benched or worse. The additions of Jordan and Lawson is going to diminish many of Johnson’s snaps anyway. The real question is: are they enough to get Johnson out of the picture completely?
Although Eric Winston isn’t necessarily a starter, he’s definitely a contributing player when put into play. Winston has been a situational tackle for the Bengals when injuries have derailed the team. He’s not the best backup but he’s definitely a serviceable player the Bengals have gone to for veteran leadership and help. Even though they didn’t draft an O-lineman in the first three rounds, Winston has been definitely put on watch. I don’t expect Winston to lose his job yet, but if Alex Redmond (who’s been impressing) and the other backups can impress, Winston may be out of luck. Another factor that isn’t working for him is that he’s on the wrong side of 30.
Winston isn’t in as much danger of losing his job as the others on this list, but don’t be surprised if he’s lower on the depth chart than right now due to competition.
Pat Sims is definitely a player that can be cut this offseason. The Bengals have a ton of young talent at the defensive tackle position making Sims expendable. Sims has always been a decent run defender but he’s getting up there in age. With the age card and the huge amount of young talent the Bengals have, Sims is in deep danger. Andrew Billings is expected to be the starting nose tackle beside Geno Atkins. It’s not necessarily what Billings can do that may cause Pat Sims his job but the other players.
Cincinnati drafted Ryan Glasgow in the 4th round and also have Marcus Hardison who’s been injured for most of his career. You can’t forget DeShawn Williams either who finally made the 53-man roster last year but delivered a mere 0.5 sacks. Three young players are ready to compete with Sims. The main question? Is Sims ready to compete and fend them off to win a roster spot?