Bengals’ hidden gems will help make playoffs a reality

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Alex Erickson
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Alex Erickson /

The Cincinnati Bengals will have plenty of weapons to help turn 2017 into a winning endeavor. Who will be the hidden gems that stand out?

The first day of the Bengals Comeback Tour is 68 days away. When the Baltimore Ravens venture into Paul Brown Stadium, things will suddenly get real. The accolades and preseason predictions will fade into the background, as the regular season rears its fangs. After a behemoth letdown that took fans by surprise, the sour taste of defeat has to be exorcised. Cincinnati has more than enough hidden talent to make some serious noise.

It’s hard to believe that July is the last month without the banging of pads and whistles blowing on the fields. Training camp will receive the Bengals with open arms and the strategy for 2017 will be unveiled. Last year’s mistakes will be turned into the motivation for another AFC North Crown. But, it won’t be easy. It’s never a total cake walk in the North. Yet, Bengals fans will be witness to the development of young studs who will help fuel the Bengals run for the playoffs.

There will be players on both sides of the ball making pulses pound and teeth grit. Marvin Lewis & Co. took the time to put a speedy, stronger version of the Bengals together. Not only are the Bengals faster than last year, they will be able to push their opponents around. Being bullies on defense will be a definite must for the new season.  

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The Bengals will have depth and room to breathe. On the defensive side of scrimmage, there are playmakers and hidden gems waiting to shine. Carl Lawson has the opportunity to be something special for the Orange & Black. Coaches and players have been raving about his abilities since he stepped onto the practice field at PBS.

What makes Lawson so special? He has the unique ability to be a hybrid defender. When he puts his hand on the ground, he has the speed and power to get around the tackle or tight end. Standing as a linebacker, he has the wits and smarts to either drop into coverage or surprise with blazing speed on a blitz. Bengals defensive guru Paul Guenther agrees.

"“I think he looks great,” Guenther stated, per “Way better than most guys that are trying to do that, that I’ve coached that tried to make the transition from being an every-snap going forward to now dropping back. He’s way ahead of a lot of guys I’ve coached.”"

Look for big things from Lawson. Vontaze Burfict is a believer too.

"“Very explosive. Good technique. Good hands. Strong. Let him be a surprise for some people. He was the No. 1 rusher coming out of high school. I’m sure it didn’t leave him that quickly.”"

Andrew Billings and Jordan Willis will sneak up on more than a few offensive linemen. The possibilities are awe-inspiring.

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All eyes will be on the man wearing No. 28. Joe Mixon has already caused a stir by being chosen to be a part of the Bengals. Now, it’s time to get a good look at him on the field. The grueling pace of training camp will either prove his worth or make Bengals brass look sheepish.

Mixon is a powerful running back with the skill set to amass way more than 1,200 yards of total offense. The Bengals haven’t had the power and speed that Mixon brings since Cedric Benson, Corey Dillon or James Brooks. Yes, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a gem in 2012. But, he struggled the following year. Mixon is the type of back Cincy needs in the AFC North. He’s shifty, powerful and fast. He’ll give the Steelers a dose of their own meds.

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If you’re ready to see John Ross blaze past defenders, join the club. When Cincinnati drafted Mr. 422, they had no intentions of letting him rot on the sidelines. Lewis is no longer on the hot seat, he’s in the fire. Ross will help open up an offense that was stagnant last year. He and A.J. Green will definitely reap the benefits of being double covered.

The Bengals are in a win-win situation. Whoever stands out will be part of the postseason party waiting to happen.