In just a few short weeks, Cincinnati Bengals training camp will open and the roster will start to take its shape. Certainly, there’s been plentiful turnover and many new faces will battle for their roster spot and playing time opportunities. However, some players are in greater battles than others. Heading into camp, there are quite a few opportunities for players to rise up and unseat a depth chart favorite. Now, there are fixtures like Joe Burrow, Jessie Bates III, and Tyler Boyd who are locked into their role. Still, there are some intense battles that will heat up in just a few weeks.
Position Battles to Watch at Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp
After tremendous turnout and participation at OTAs and minicamp, the Cincinnati Bengals training camp slate is about to take shape. There’s quite a bit of buzz around this team, as they attempt to build something special around Joe Burrow. With an exciting rookie class and some intriguing free-agent additions, there’s reason to believe they’re setting that tone. After all, this team needs to get a heck of a lot more competitive in 2021. Training camp opens in late July and presents a great chance for that competition to heat up.
Granted, the competition gets a little less friendly at this stage. There are jobs on the line and players are battling for their livelihood. Whether it’s for a spot on the depth chart, roster, or even practice squad, this stage is a make-or-break moment for many. At Cincinnati Bengals training camp, there are some incredibly interesting battles and storylines to follow.
Drue Chrisman vs. Kevin Huber for Starting Punter
Certainly, the Bengals are in the midst of a youth movement on special teams. Adding kicker Evan McPherson in the fifth round was a major move. Further, they moved on from five-year punt returner Alex Erickson. That made their decision to extend Kevin Huber for just a single season quite a bit more interesting. Then, they added stand-out punter Drue Chrisman as an undrafted free agent, which really stirred interest around the position. Seemingly, the one-year deal from Huber indicates that his spot isn’t tremendously safe. While Chrisman might end up waiting a year for the role, it’s far from a safe bet.
Prediction: Kevin Huber gets one more season, Drue Chrisman joins the practice squad as the punter-in-waiting
Final Running Back Spots Need to Be Hashed Out
This will be a very fun room to watch given the talent on this roster. Two spots are basically locked- Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. Beyond that duo, draft pick Chris Evans, UDFA Pooka Williams, and third-year back Trayveon Williams will dual for some final spots. In the past, the Bengals have kept four running backs, though that’s no lock for 2021. All three have their positives and all three have their negatives, which is the nature of the beast.
In training camp, this could become a battle of versatility. Chris Evans took snaps at wide receiver in OTAs. Further, considering the Bengals just used a sixth round pick on the back, they probably won’t want to let him go. Pooka Williams flashed in opportunities as a punt returner and can be used in wide receiver sets. Meanwhile, Williams didn’t do much to differentiate himself from the bunch. In his college and NFL careers, he has yet to impress as a pass-catcher. However, he’s the only one of the three with NFL snaps.
Prediction: Chris Evans makes the roster, Pooka Williams joins the practice squad, Trayveon Williams misses the roster
Defensive Line Could Have A Few Surprise Cuts
Certainly, there are a few very safe names in this room. D.J. Reader, Sam Hubbard, Trey Hendrickson, Larry Ogunjobi, and Mike Daniels are practical roster locks. Further, it’s hard to imagine third round pick Joseph Ossai and fourth round pick Cameron Sample missing the 53-man roster. This top-loaded room leaves little room for others to shake open a spot. However, there are some interesting names that could wind up knocking off some favorites to make the team.
In terms of remaining rookies, fourth-rounder Tyler Shelvin and seventh-rounder Wyatt Hubert provide opposite assistance. Shelvin is a run-stuffing big man, whereas Hubert is a tenacious athlete with special teams value. Contributors from last season’s campaign like Amani Bledsoe, Freedom Akinmoladun, and Kahlil McKenzie are also coming to camp. Plus, 2020 fifth round pick Khalid Kareem returns to fight for a bigger role after playing 24% of defensive snaps last season. In general, it’s hard to imagine the team sheds any recent draft picks. Still, if some of the veterans outperform the young guys, it does make the decision harder for Duke Tobin and Zac Taylor. Renell Wren and Josh Tupou are also returning after missing all of 2020 due to injury and opting out, respectively.
Prediction: Renell Wren, Tyler Shelvin, Khalid Kareem, and Amani Bledsoe earn spots on the back-end
As if the Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase reunion wasn’t enough reason for excitement, the Bengals are set for a thrilling camp. Key spots in all three phases of the game are going to be earned; that’s without a doubt. Ahead, there should be some surprising cuts and camp heroes, all providing plenty of storylines for fans to track. Simply put, it’s highly recommended that fans tune into Cincinnati Bengals training camp this year.
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