2011 Bengals starters, record prediction

We’re less than a month from training camps beginning around the NFL. (OK, maybe we’re not, but let’s pretend like the CBA will get taken care of in the next couple weeks for a moment.)

The Cincinnati Bengals will certainly have a new-look offense this year with rookie quarterback Andy Dalton — who they nabbed in the early second-round of the draft out of TCU — and coordinator Jay Gruden. The team will also likely part ways with wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who holds nearly every meaningful team receiving record in the book. Therefore, rookie first-round pick A.J. Green and 2008 second-rounder Jerome Simpson are the projected starters, with 2010 third-rounder Jordan Shipley slated as the No. 3/slot receiver. (To be clear, the team has not relased Ochocinco yet and he has one year remaining on a contract that pays him $6 million per year. I think the Bengals will look to trade him — and they aren’t going to get anything better than a fourth-rounder for him — or flat-out release him.)

Also, it will be interesting to see if the team re-signs running back Cedric Benson, but most signs point towards that happening. Both sides seem to need each other to a certain extent. And it’s easy for the Bengals to sell Benson on the fact that they are going to lean on the running game with a rookie quarterback and young wide receivers. So, I expect Benson to be re-upped for three years or so. And Cincinnati has a good backup in third-year pro Bernard Scott who could be waiting to break out at any time.

Defensively, Carlos Dunlap is a star-in-the-making at end … and the team might decide to release one of the veterans at the position like Robert Geathers or Antwan Odom. The tackles are in very good shape with Domata Peko, Tank Johnson and up-and-comer Geno Atkins who is a great pass-rusher for a D-tackle.

At linebacker, I think it’s time to say farewell to the well-dressed but washed-up Dhani Jones and move third-year pro Rey Maualuga to the middle. We’ll see what the team does there; for some reason Jones has them tricked into thinking he’s actually a good player.

At cornerback, the Bengals gave Johnathan Joseph the highest possible tender, so under the old deal he will be a restricted free agent and a team would have to give the Bengals a first and a third-round pick if they signed Joseph to an offer sheet that the Bengals didn’t match. I can’t imagine the new CBA is going to be drastically different in that regard, so it sounds like J-Jo will have at least one more season in Cincinnati. And hopefully they will lock him up with a long-term deal because good corners are hard to find. If they let him go, they’ll end up spending a bunch of future draft picks trying to find someone to replace him. So, just pony up and sign him … although that’s not how Mike Brown is known to do things of couse.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the Bengals’ projected starters on both sides of the ball (and yes, I have a whopping four rookies listed as starters, including three on offense) the top reserves and a prediction of what their 2011 record will be.

2011 CINCINNATI BENGALS

Offense

QB: 14 Andy Dalton (6-2, 215)

RB: 32 Cedric Benson (5-11, 227)

FB: 36 Chris Pressley (5-11, 260)

WR: 18 A.J. Green (6-4, 212)

WR: 89 Jerome Simpson (6-2, 195)

TE: 84 Jermaine Gresham (6-5, 260)

LT: 77 Andrew Whitworth (6-7, 335)

LG: 65 Clint Boling (6-5, 308)

C: 64 Kyle Cook (6-3, 316)

RG: 63 Bobbie Williams (6-4, 345)

RT: 71 Andre Smith (6-4, 365) … or … 73 Anthony Collins (6-5, 324)

Defense

DE: 96 Carlos Dunlap (6-6, 286)

DT: 94 Domata Peko (6-3, 320)

DT: 99 Tank Johnson (6-3, 315)

DE: 98 Antwan Odom (6-5, 275) [might be cut] … or … DE: 93 Michael Johnson (6-7, 268)

OLB: 55 Keith Rivers (6-2, 242)

MLB: 58 Rey Maualuga (6-2, 255)

OLB: 59 Brandon Johnson (6-5, 240)

CB: 22 Johnathan Joseph (5-11, 190)

CB: 29 Leon Hall (5-11, 195)

FS: 20 Reggie Nelson (5-11, 206)

SS: 49 Robert Sands (6-4, 217)

Special Teams

K: 2 Mike Nugent (5-10, 186)

P: 10 Kevin Huber (6-1, 210)

KOR: 28 Bernard Scott (5-10, 197)

PR: 12 Quan Cosby (5-9, 190) … or … 24 Pacman Jones (5-10, 188)

LS: 46 Clark Harris (6-5, 260)

Top Reserves

QB: 8 Dan LeFevour (6-3, 230)

RB: 28 Bernard Scott (5-10, 197)

RB: 33 Jay Finley (5-11, 203)

RB/FB: Brian Leonard (6-1, 225)

WR: 11 Jordan Shipley (6-0, 190)

WR: 87 Andre Caldwell (6-0, 195)

WR: 88 Ryan Whalen (6-2, 205)

TE: 80 Chase Coffman (6-6, 250)

OT: 74 Dennis Roland (6-9, 320)

OG: 66 Evan Mathis (6-5, 302)

OG: 62 Nate Livings (6-5, 332)

C: 61 Reggie Stephens (6-3, 320)

DE: 68 Jonathan Fanene (6-4, 292)

DE: 91 Robert Geathers (6-3, 280) [might be cut]

DT: 97 Geno Atkins (6-1, 290)

DT: 90 Pat Sims (6-2, 325)

MLB: 56 Roddrick Muckelroy (6-2, 240)

OLB: 52 Dontay Moch (6-1, 248)

LB: 51 Dan Skuta (6-2, 252)

CB: 24 Pacman Jones (5-10, 188)

CB: 21 Brandon Ghee (6-0, 190)

CB: 25 Morgan Trent (6-1, 193)

CB: 38 Corey Lindsey (5-10, 194)

FS: 42 Chris Crocker (5-11, 202)

SS: 31 Roy Williams (6-0, 222)

SS: 41 Chinedum Ndukwe (6-2, 224)

Head coach: Marvin Lewis

Offensive coordinator: Jay Gruden

Defensive coordinator: Mike Zimmer

Record prediction: 6-10

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