The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off of a spectacular season where they reached the Super Bowl. The biggest weakness for the team in 2021 was their offensive line and they went out and improved that in free agency. In addition to that, they didn’t face much roster turnover and instead just added to a Super Bowl-caliber roster. Before training camp, there are some starting spots that could be different from last year.
Quarterback- Joe Burrow
Running Back- Joe Mixon
Wide Receivers- Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd
Tight End- Hayden Hurst
Center- Ted Karras
Tackles- La’el Collins, Jonah Williams
Guards- Alex Cappa, Jackson Carman
No surprise at the quarterback spot as that will be the Bengals franchise guy Joe Burrow. The running back will still be Joe Mixon who is coming off a season where he was the third-best running back with 1,205 yards. The wide receivers remain the same with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd who combined for 3,374 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. The tight end position will be different with C.J. Uzomah now on the New York Jets. Uzomah’s departure led to the Bengals signing Hayden Hurst in free agency. Hurst proved he is a starting-caliber tight end during his time with the Atlanta Falcons as in the 2020 season he had 56 receptions for 571 yards, and six touchdowns.
What a difference a year makes for this offensive line though. The Bengals went out in free agency and signed Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’el Collins to make drastic improvements to a line that allowed Burrow to be sacked 51 times. Jonah Williams will still be the starting left tackle, and until otherwise it will be Jackson Carman starting at left guard. There will be a competition in training camp though with fourth-round pick, Cordell Volson. With how Carman welcomed the competition he used that as motivation to get in better shape and looked better during the Bengals’ organized team activities. If he struggles early on in training camp though don’t be surprised to see Volson get the starting job.
Defensive End- Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson
3-Tech- B.J. Hill
Nose Tackle- D.J. Reader
Linebackers- Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt
Cornerbacks- Chidobe Awuzie, Cam Taylor-Britt, Mike Hilton
Safety- Jessie Bates, Von Bell
There may be contract disputes going on between the team and Jessie Bates who does not want to play on the franchise tag. Despite that, there is no reason at the moment to believe Bates won’t be the starting safety for the team alongside Von Bell and occasionally rookie Dax Hill. Hill could also see some rotational snaps with Mike Hilton in the slot as he provides that versatility. Ultimately though, it will be Hilton getting starting snaps as he had an impressive year on the team last year only allowing four touchdowns in the regular season. Chidobe Awuzie was another great addition in the 2021 free agency cycle and will be the starter again.
The change comes at the second cornerback spot with Cam Taylor-Britt over Eli Apple. While Apple improved towards the end of the regular season he struggled in the playoffs allowing a 70.4% completion percentage. Apple will be good on a rotational basis but with Taylor-Britt’s skill set of being able to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and diagnose plays quickly will help him secure the starting role.
Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt will be the starting linebackers so no surprise there. The defensive ends will remain the same with Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson who is coming off a 14-sack season. The interior of the defensive line will be different in week one this year compared to last but will remain the same from the Super Bowl. D.J. Reader will still be the nose tackle, and with Larry Ogunjobi no longer with the team, B.J. Hill will have starting snaps. Especially after his three-year $30,000,000 contract he signed in free agency.
Kicker- Evan McPherson
Punter- Kevin Huber
Long Snapper- Clark Harris
The specialists for the Bengals remain the same as well. After a phenomenal rookie season where he made 84.8% of his field goal attempts, 95.8% of his extra point attempts, and scored 130 points, Evan McPherson will be the starter. Long-time punter Kevin Huber remains with the team and so does Clark Harris and both will resume their starting roles again.