They seem to be the two glaring needs, even though the team addressed their depth at the positions in free agency (adding cornerbacks Terence Newman and Jason Allen along with guards Jacob Bell and Travelle Wharton). There are still plenty of questions that need to be answered.
At cornerback, the Bengals have gone from the top tandem of corners in the NFL with Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph to a group without a clear-cut starter. Joseph is in Houston, while Hall is coming off a serious injury that puts his ability to start the season in doubt. Newman is a 10-year vet at a position where youth is king, while Allen’s departure from Houston seemed to create nary a blip.
Meanwhile, Bobbie Williams — the stalwart at guard in Cincinnati for the last eight seasons — is an unrestricted free agent, and even if he does come back it’s possible he’ll be either a reserve or cut during camp. Meanwhile, Wharton and Bell are veterans at guard and more than capable of holding down the two guard spots in 2012, but Bell is only on a one-year deal with the team and a replacement would be needed at some point.
If the team does what is expected, here are a few possible future Bengals:
Offensive guard David DeCastro, Stanford: He’s probably the only guard in this year’s draft that will be taken in the first round.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama: The second-best cornerback in the draft, the former Crimson Tide CB is big and physical — he also has a recent marijuana arrest on his record, which may seem to make him a natural fit for the Bengals. Of course there’s also...
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama: Perhaps as talented as anyone in the draft, Jenkins ended up at North Alabama after being kicked off the team at Florida for misconduct, which is a lot like when Steven Adler was kicked out of Guns N’ Roses for doing too many drugs. When you actually get dismissed at Florida, you know there were some serious problems. Of course, the fact that his name is still being mentioned tells you just how good he can be. He once shut down A.J. Green, and there might be few higher compliments you can give a defensive back.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina: Gilmore is often compared to the former Bengal Joseph, and not just because they share an alma mater. If he’s as good as Joseph, he’s worthy of a pick here.
Of course, the team could always go off board and take a running back or a wide receiver — both are needs. While the team has Green, another top-flight receiver (like maybe Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd?) or running back could help complement what the team already has on its roster.
Last season the Bengals went pretty much as expected, a wide receiver and quarterback, and it worked out well. Other drafts under Marvin Lewis have not been as successful. Both of the team’s first-round picks made the Pro Bowl last season, matching the number of Pro Bowl players drafted in Lewis’ first seven drafts (Carson Palmer and Joseph). That stat, as much as anything, tells just why the team has been unable to sustain success. Any successful team in this day and age of the NFL is built upon the draft. Too often in Cincinnati that means building on the likes of Odell Thurman, Keith Rivers, Kenny Irons, Keiwan Ratliff, as well as Khalid Abullah, Adam Keift, A.J. Nicholson and Chase Coffman.
In the end, as important as it is for the Bengals to fill the right positions, it’s much more important for the Bengals to pick the right player, something that’s been an issue in the past. We’ll see what everyone says after Roger Goodell announces the Bengals’ picks, but it’ll be years before we see if the team has gotten it right.
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