In 2012, the Cincinnati Bengals once again fell short of making it past the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
If the Bengals are to take the next step in the AFC North in 2013, it is imperative that their offseason roster additions make an immediate impact.
As the Bengals organized team activities (OTAs) ended, here are 10 things we learned about the 2013 edition of this franchise:
- This tight end group has the potential to be as good as the unit in New England. Tyler Eifert has shown that he not only has the hands, but also the explosiveness to be the Bengals version of Rob Gronkowski. Combine Eifert’s natural ability with the sometimes underrated play of Jermaine Gresham, and we could be looking at the Midwest version of the Patriot offense.
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis has some serious competition in the backfield from Giovani Bernard. Bernard has not only shown some burst throughout workouts, but he can also catch passes, too. It could be only a matter of time before the rookie from North Carolina takes the starting spot from BJGE.
- The James Harrison pickup is a big shot in the arm for the Bengals’ linebacker corps. There was initial concern that Harrison, who played under a 3-4 scheme for Dick Lebeau in Pittsburgh, would struggle with a switch to a 4-3 defense. If anything, however, it appears that Harrison will be freer to rush the quarterback in Mike Zimmer’s defense. Pass rush was something Harrison excelled at early in his career with the Steelers.
- Margus Hunt adds some much-needed depth to the Bengals defensive line. Hunt, a 6’8 defensive end from Estonia, may initially go through some growing pains as a rookie. However, it appears that fellow DE’s Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson will be more than willing to take the rookie out of SMU under their wings.
- Shawn Williams has shown flashes of why he might be the answer at safety opposite Reggie Nelson. Called out by some of his veteran teammates, Williams intercepted two passes during OTAs, showing some of the same quickness he displayed while at Georgia.
- Andy Dalton has some serious weapons at his disposal on offense. The knock on the Bengals last season was that Green was the only target Dalton had. In addition to Eifert, Mohamed Sanu, Gresham, among others, rookie Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas has wowed onlookers as well. This season it appears that Dalton won’t have to look long to find an open receiver.
- The Andre Smith saga appears to have been blown out of proportion. The free agent right tackle had signed a contract with the team prior to OTAs but didn’t participate in drills, citing personal reasons. But with the depth the Bengals currently have on the offensive line, it doesn’t appear they’re missing him all that much.
- The Bengals continue to get younger on both sides of the ball, and that is a good thing. Even though the signing of Harrison would seem to signal otherwise, the Bengals feel confident that many of the players they acquired through the draft will be able to contribute immediately.
- Despite the off-field antics of Smith, and now Pacman Jones, this team still has to be considered the favorite to win the AFC North Division in 2013. The Bengals have added significant talent to both sides of the ball this offseason. And while many in the Ravens camp believe they are poised to make a repeat run this year, the fact of the matter is they have serious holes to fill.
- With a third straight season of growth, it finally appears that Cincinnati is shedding its ‘Bungles’ moniker of the late 80’s and 90s. Training camp hasn’t even started yet, and the Bengals are already being mentioned as serious contenders. The last time that happened in consecutive seasons was when Boomer Esiason lined up under.