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NFL Cincinnati Bengals

5 Storylines To Follow During Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp

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Stroylines To Follow During Cincinnati Bengals Training Camp

David Kohl-USA Today Sports

For what seems like eons, the Cincinnati Bengals have been like the weak and puny little brother of the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Only now the little brother is getting older and starting to lift weights.

For the first time in over 20 years, the Bengals made the playoffs in consecutive seasons (2011 and 2012), both times losing to the Houston Texans in the opening round. Things might be different this year as the Ravens are going through a lot of transition and the Steelers keep getting older on defense. The Bengals are becoming a very chic pick to win the AFC North.

The genesis of the Bengals resurgence can be heavily tied to Andy Dalton and A.J Green. Green was as good as advertised and is quickly climbing up the elite receiver ranks. Dalton, on the other hand, was a lot better than most people thought he could be. I'm sure the Jacksonville Jaguars are kicking themselves for taking Blaine Gabbart over Dalton.

The Bengals didn’t do much in free agency, besides acquiring James Harrison, formally from division foe Pittsburgh. If he has anything left in the tank he’ll add to the already great Bengals pass rush.

The Bengals made a splash in the early rounds of the draft by first taking the top ranked tight end Tyler Eifert, which was a little surprising considering they all already have a good tight end in Jermaine Gresham. In the second round, the Bengals were the first team to take a running back and selected the dangerous Giovanni Bernard.

The path to the division crown won’t be an easy one, but the Bengals feel like they can compete for it this season. Here the things to keep an eye on for the remainder of training camp.

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Middle Linebackers

Mitch Stringer-USA Today Sports

Ray Maualuga has been a disappointment for the Bengals the past few years. He’ll need to step up his play or he might be replaced in the middle by the surprising undrafted Vontaze Burfict. The linebacker spot was one of the weaknesses of the Bengals last year, they’ll need to improve in that area if they want to compete with the big boys.

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Carlos Dunlap

Jake Roth-USA Today Sports

Carlos Dunlap suffered a concussion earlier in training camp. This is bad news for the Bengals because he was expected to take on a larger role, besides just situational pass rusher. Dunlap is going into a contract year and the Bengals are going to need him at full strength. The pass rush is going to have to continue to be brilliant as the Bengals will go up against Joe Flacco (twice), Ben Rothelisberger (twice), Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck.

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The next great tight end duo?

tight end
David Kohl-USA Today Sports

Andy Dalton doesn’t have the biggest arm, so bringing in Tyler Eifert was smart. After the success the New England Patriots had with Rob Gronkowski and he who should not be named, a lot of other teams have been running with more two tight end sets. Eifert and Jermaine Gresham should be a force to be reckoned with in the intermediate passing game.

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Giovanni Bernard

Rob Kinnan-USA Today Sports

Last year the Bengals brought in BenJarvis Green-Ellis to be the featured back. He was solid but not nothing special. Second round draft pick Giovanni Bernard is a complete back and should be a better option on third downs then the Law Firm. Should is the key word though, as Bernard will have to be as good as advertised to take pressure off Andy Dalton.

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Can Andy Dalton step up?

David Kohl-USA Today Sports

Andy Dalton has had two pretty good regular seasons in the NFL. Unfortunately, he’s been awful in two postseason losses against the Houston Texans. The Bengals' success or failure will lay mainly on Dalton's shoulders. He’ll be entering his third year and has a good supporting cast in receivers A.J Green, Mohamed Sanu and Andrew Hawkins, in addition to the two tight ends Gresham and Eifert. And he now has Bernard, who I mentioned earlier. The talent is there, it’s time to put up or shut up.