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Thread: Eight under-the-radar Bengals who could seize an opportunity in 2021

  1. #1

    Eight under-the-radar Bengals who could seize an opportunity in 2021

    Eight under-the-radar Bengals who could seize an opportunity in 2021





    By Jay Morrison Mar 4, 2021



    Only a handful of the 26 Bengals set to hit free agency in a couple of weeks are solid bets to re-sign with the team. It’s all part of the roster churn that has been ongoing since head coach Zac Taylor arrived with a focus on getting younger.


    That combination of vacancies and youth sets the stage for some under-the-radar players to seize opportunities and play bigger roles in 2021, especially
    amid the shrinking salary cap and a greater reliance on developing players already on the roster rather than shopping for stopgaps on a budget.

    Here are eight under-the-radar players who could step up and make an impact on the Bengals in 2021:

    LB Markus Bailey




    The Bengals spent 43 percent of their draft capital on linebackers last year, with Bailey the last of the three the team selected. Everyone’s season got off
    to a slow start with the loss of organized team activities, but Bailey started even further behind because he was rehabbing the knee injury that ended his
    final season at Purdue. He was healthy by training camp, but he was playing catch-up all season, and the cancellation of the preseason hurt him more
    than others. Linebacker is still a position in flux, especially with Jordan Evans and Josh Bynes heading into free agency. Bailey, whom many projected
    as a second- or third-round prospect before the injury, will be hitting the starting line with everyone else this year.

    DE Khalid Kareem




    Another 2020 draft pick whose rookie year initially was slowed by injury, Kareem has a wide-open path to playing time if he can take advantage of it.
    The Bengals were last in the league in sacks last year, and their most productive pass rusher, Carl Lawson, is heading into free agency. Even if the
    Bengals bring Lawson back to pair with Sam Hubbard, there will be openings in the rotation. Kareem appeared in all 16 games last year, playing 24
    percent of the defensive snaps and accumulating one sack and nine pressures. The Bengals will address the position in free agency and/or the draft, but
    Kareem will have every chance to earn a larger role.

    WR Auden Tate




    OK, maybe Tate doesn’t strike you as an under-the-radar player, but he’s caught more than 14 passes or played more than 16 percent of the offensive
    snaps in only one of his three seasons. He’s not the deep threat speedster the Bengals covet, but he could be the biggest beneficiary of A.J. Green’s
    impending departure in free agency. Tate established an early trust with Joe Burrow last year with some wow moments in camp, and the connection
    grew as the season went on, with the rookie quarterback often looking his way on third down or in late-game situations. Tate, whose season ended due
    to a shoulder injury one week after Burrow went down with the ACL, also is heading into a contract year, so a lot of pieces are in place for this to be his
    breakout season.



    Auden Tate has become known for his spectacular catches but has yet to produce consistently. He could see an increased role in 2021. (Andy Lyons /
    Getty Images)








    DT Renell Wren




    At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, Wren might show up on actual radar, but he’s been mostly invisible on the field since the Bengals took him in the fourth
    round in 2019. He played just 155 snaps as a rookie before a hip injury ended his season, and he didn’t make it out of the first week of training camp last
    year before a quad injury felled him. The Bengals desperately need an infusion of talent and youth on the interior of their defensive line, and Wren could
    provide both if he can stay healthy. Imagine the stress on an offensive line facing a defensive tackle tandem of Wren and D.J. Reader. Wren also
    provides some versatility, as the Bengals brought him off the edge quite a bit as a rookie.

    OT Isaiah Prince




    So much of the focus this offseason has been on finding starters in free agency and/or the draft to fix the offensive line, but equally important is figuring
    out which current players are worthy of sticking around as backups. And when the discussion goes there, Prince is sort of a forgotten man after opting
    out in 2020. A sixth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2019, he was claimed by the Bengals in December that year with an eye on development. Long and
    athletic at 6-7, 305 pounds, Prince should be in the mix with Fred Johnson and Hakeem Adeniji to be the swing tackle and extra man in jumbo packages.

    K Austin Seibert




    Signed as an emergency contingency in Week 2 while he drove down Interstate 71, Seibert stuck around all year and eventually took over in December
    after the Bengals had seen enough of Randy Bullock’s inconsistency. Seibert hit 6 of 8 field-goal attempts, with one of the misses coming from 55
    yards. The Bengals will bring in another kicker or two and have an open competition in camp. Mike Nugent and Bullock each began their careers
    elsewhere before coming to Cincinnati and spending at least some time atop the franchise’s career accuracy list. The Bengals would be thrilled to get
    anything close to that from Seibert.

    LB Akeem Davis-Gaither




    Another member of the 2020 rookie class, Davis-Gaither saw his playing time nearly bottom out before he rebounded to become a bigger piece of the
    defense for the final few games of the season. He played no less than 27 percent of the snaps in Games 1-8 but logged a total of 33 snaps over the next
    five games. It was a disappointing season overall for Davis-Gaither, but the same could be said for just about every player on defense. The rookie
    learning curve is behind him and, presumably, there will be an improved defensive line ahead of him in 2021, so Davis-Gaither should be freer to make
    the types of plays the Bengals envisioned when they used a fourth-round pick on him.



    The Bengals will look for Akeem Davis-Gaither to make a bigger impact in his second season. (Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)








    DT Josh Tupou




    Another 2020 opt-out, Tupou was a prospective breakout candidate last year leading up to training camp, and his odds of making an impact only would
    have increased after Reader went down with the season-ending injury in Week 5. Tupou had built some momentum after a solid 2019 season when he
    played 465 snaps and received a 73.8 grade from Pro Football Focus, ranking 23rd among interior defensive linemen. He’s not the pass-rush threat Wren
    is, but adding another run stopper to the rotation will be important for a defense that allowed 5.1 yards per carry in 2020, second-worst in the league.





    https://www.espn.com/nfl/team/_/name/cin/cincinnati-bengals










  2. #2
    The Bengals desperately need to get something out of Kareem. Hopefully with his size he can be the Nickel DT role while also providing some rush on the edge.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
    The Bengals desperately need to get something out of Kareem. Hopefully with his size he can be the Nickel DT role while also providing some rush on the edge.
    The article gets it exactly right. His pathway to playing time is wide open.

    Kind of perfect for Anarumo's cage rushing scheme. Outstanding anchor and containment skills. Pass rush not so much. Doesn't have the burst to win off the snap....so don't ask him to. High motor should net a couple of sacks.

  4. #4
    Not exactly an overwhelming list but Tupou is the one on there that I'm most excited about... although I am interested to see how the young LBs step up, too. Tupou is hard to move, and while he won't close on the QB, he's strong enough to push the pocket and create opportunities for other guys when the QB has to move off the spot.

    Markus Bailey did next to nothing when he did play... both on STs and on D, but he was coming off of a tough injury and with a full off-season, he may start to show out. He looks athletic... runs well. ADG started to show up a little on D towards the end of the year. If nothing else, he can make some plays vs. the pass and give you something on STs.

    And agree that Kareem isn't an explosive athlete but as a wave guy, he can give you some ballast up-front and through effort, he can get you a few sacks... in addition to some solid run support.

  5. #5
    I’m hoping they can get something out of Wren. He had flashes of dominance in college.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jason_NC View Post
    I’m hoping they can get something out of Wren. He had flashes of dominance in college.
    Yes, me too and he started to show something late as a rookie.

    But he needs to stay on the field. Any time a big guy gets hurt - and I think he's had pretty significant hip and quad injuries in successive years - it's concerning.

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