Breakouts, Dark Horses, and More for the 2018 Bengals

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 02: Darius Phillips
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 02: Darius Phillips /

We pick a rising star, a comeback player and more for the Bengals next season. Who do you think these guys will be? Let us know!

There’s been a thread floating around Twitter for each team heading into training camp. The idea is that you project each team’s breakout player, rising star, comeback player, “don’t forget about him” player, player that needs to rebound, dark horse, and most underrated player. I’ve seen a few of these for the Bengals already, but we’re going to do our own set on Stripe Hype here. Without further ado, let’s breakdown who each of these guys will be for the Bengals in 2018.

Breakout Player: Joe Mixon

This one was pretty easy, as Mixon should smash his rookie season performance. He got off to an especially slow start, but ran a lot better once he had full control of the backfield. Mixon’s 3.5 yards per carry don’t represent his season accurately, as he was over 4.0 yards per carry nearly every one of his last six games. The Bengals will feature Mixon this season, likely feeding him 18+ touches a game. Behind a greatly improved offensive line, Mixon should definitely break out.

Rising Star: William Jackson III

This was another easy selection, as Jackson has become my favorite player in the NFL. His performance to end last season was absolutely asinine, allowing 3 catches for 8 yards over the last six games. Jackson also allowed the second lowest passer rating of any cornerback in the NFL over the course of the 2017 season. By the way, this all happened in his first full season. The Bengals knocked it out of the park by drafting Jackson, as he’s poised to become the next elite lockdown corner in the NFL.

Comeback Player: Cordy Glenn

This selection won’t resonate with Bengals fans as much as other players, but injuries have plagued Glenn for the last two seasons. Glenn played only six games last year and eleven the year before. He did not play particularly well last year either, grading out as “below average” on PFF. However, Glenn is an elite offensive tackle when healthy, and reports are that he looks 100% in training camp so far. This can be the season that Glenn reestablishes himself as one of the best linemen in the NFL.

Don’t Forget About: Jordan Willis

Willis is a name that probably isn’t fresh in Bengals fans’ minds, but he could be a key component of the defense in his second year. Last year’s third round pick, Willis was overshadowed by Carl Lawson. Lawson had a phenomenal year, but Willis played pretty well, too – he put up 25 tackles and 1 sack in limited work. Willis is a freaky athlete who can defend both the run and the pass. After a season to adjust to the NFL, the Bengals should be ready to give Willis a ton of snaps.

Needs to Rebound: Tyler Eifert

There’s not a player on the Bengals who needs a bounce back season more than Tyler Eifert. After missing most of the last two season with injury, he needs to prove he’s still a viable NFL tight end. When healthy, Eifert is a key offensive weapon for the Bengals, as both a route runner and end zone threat. However, he cannot be relied upon to stay on the field. This season is a make or break year for Eifert, so he needs that rebound year the most.

Dark Horse: Darius Phillips

Phillips was an under the radar fifth round selection this year, but he could be one of the more dynamic Bengals this season. A former wide receiver, Phillips has turned himself into a ball-hawking cornerback with a penchant for turnovers. He forced 16 turnovers in three season at Western Michigan, so new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin may look to use Phillips as a spark on defense.

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Phillips also returns kicks and punts, putting up 6 return touchdowns in three years. He is the likely candidate to return kicks and punts for the Bengals this year, and could turn a game on its head with a big return. Watch out for Phillips this season, because he could surprise.

Most Underrated: Giovani Bernard

Bernard continues to be one of the most under-appreciated Bengals since the turn of the century. Since 2013, Bernard has done nothing expect run efficiently and make plays in the open field. Last year, behind a brutal offensive line, he still put up 4.4 yards per carry. As much as I think Joe Mixon will break out, I think Bernard is not going anywhere next year. The Bengals would be wise to use both backs next season, creating a powerful rushing duo.