The Cincinnati Bengals are set to open up training camp in downtown Cincinnati for the third year in a row in just under three weeks. Each year, fans come to check out the team working out, running plays, and looking at the fresh talent added in the offseason. This year fans will see Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, two of the Bengals best defensive players, make their way back from devastating injuries suffered last season, how the offense and defense will run under their new coordinators, and if Andy Dalton has stepped up his game enough to earn his contract extension. But what about the guys fighting for their jobs, the ones who don’t have a secure starting spot? Here are the three top position battles to watch at Bengals training camp this year.
1. Running back- Cincinnati has a deep running back staff to work with. After Giovani Bernard’s successful rookie season last year, the Bengals drafted running back Jeremy Hill out of LSU in the 2014 NFL Draft to work in the backfield with Bernard, making what could potentially be a very dangerous double-headed monster. Where does that leave veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis? Right now, Green-Ellis is the odd man out of this young, quick, and agile running back corp. The Bengals also have running back Rex Burkhead to use, but the odds of him making the team are very slim as well. Burkhead is a tough running back with incredible hustle but the Bengals are so deep at the position it’s hard to see him making the team. It will be interesting to see what happens to veteran Green-Ellis as training camp unfolds.
2.Middle Linebacker- The guy in question here is J.K. Schaffer. Schaffer made the 53 man roster last season after impressing coaches during the preseason games and showing that he has tremendous special teams value. As an undrafted player, it makes it harder for Scahffer to get onto the roster behind Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey. Rey has shown what he is capable of when filling in for Maualuga when he was down with an injury and it won Rey more playing time. Rey is a versatile player who can play the field and if the Bengals use Rey in different schemes to try to get him on the field as much as possible, the defense would certainly get a boost. Rey has a very high chance of making the team, while Schaffer’s status is more in question.
3. Center- Rookie center Russell Bodine was drafted in the fourth round by the Bengals in this year’s draft. Normally fourth round picks don’t really have the greatest chances at starting, but that’s a little different for Bodine. Bodine will be competing with Trevor Robinson for the starting center’s job, as Robinson has taken over the position for the Bengals after Kyle Cook has been battling injuries. Robinson has been just OK at the position, so Bodine has a good shot at coming in and really fighting Robinson for the job. In the Bengals’ playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers last season, the offensive line really fell apart in pass protection so whoever can protect Dalton the best may have the upper hand here as well.
The Bengals are one of the lucky teams where they don’t have many big, lingering questions going into training camp concerning the most vital positions. They have a set quarterback, solid defensive line, and a plethora of talent at receiver. It will be interesting to watch how these few battles shake out over the course of training camp.