By Connor Fulton @ConnorFultonRS on June 10, 2014
After posting a regular-season record of 11-5 in 2013, the Cincinnati Bengals failed yet again to win a playoff game in the Marvin Lewis era. However, the Bengals have a strong core of young players who will fuel the team in 2014. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the 2014 season has in store for the Bengals.
Bernard displayed electrifying talent in his rookie season. However, he never received the bulk of the load in the Bengals' backfield, as he didn’t surpass the 100-yard mark in a single game. Expect the Bengals to give Bernard more touches on the ball in 2014 — he’ll prove that he’s the LaDainian Tomlinson of his generation.
Dennard, cousin of New England Patriots corner Alfonzo Dennard, is considered by many to be the best defensive back in the 2014 draft class. He’ll compete for a starting role among a pool of aged veterans, including Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones. Don’t be surprised if Dennard is flourishing as a starter by mid-season.
With Giovani Bernard entering stardom and the addition of rookie Jeremy Hill, there isn’t much room for Green-Ellis on the Bengals' depth chart. While the Bengals won’t completely ditch him, as he is valuable in short-distance and goal-line situations, he definitely won’t be the featured guy in 2014. Expect the 220 carries he received last year to be cut in half, at least.
The secret is out about Burfict. After going undrafted in 2012, he has racked up 298 tackles in two seasons, and led the NFL with 171 takedowns in 2013. Look for Burfict to really burst into the NFL mainstream this season by continuing to anchor an elite Bengals defense, putting himself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.
This isn’t exactly a bold prediction, as the Bengals were kings of their division last year. However, the AFC North is one of the league’s toughest divisions — the Baltimore Ravens aren’t far removed from a Super Bowl win, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had a losing season since 2003 and the Cleveland Browns have improved vastly over the offseason. All that being said, the Bengals are simply the most talented, balanced team among these four.
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