Joshua: What are two of the top training camp battles for the first-team offense/defense?
Jason: On defense, there’s still a lot of uncertainty at the safety position. Reggie Nelson is the only proven safety on the roster. He’ll man the free safety, while the strong safety is still a huge question mark.
Georgia rookie Shawn Williams will be an adequate starter eventually, but as a rookie third-round pick? He has to step up and learn Mike Zimmer’s defensive schemes quickly and become an NFL starter rather quickly. If he doesn’t work out, the Bengals will be left with Taylor Mays to start after he couldn’t hold that spot last year.
As of now, George Iloka holds the top spot atop the depth chart, and started last week’s game vs. the Falcons at SS. Who starts Saturday vs. the Titans will be very telling in how the battle has gone since then.
On offense, North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard is the favorite to get the most touches of any offensive player drafted, and with the Bengals having desperately needed a dynamic pass-catching back to complement the short-yardage game of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Gio figures to get a lot of playing time, and may eventually earn the starting spot. But don’t count out the wily veteran Ellis, who had arguably the best season of his career last year as the primary back, and force the rookie to earn every carry he gets.
Eifert vs. Gresham at TE will also be a battle to watch. The rookie could very will find himself the #1 TE in an offense that likes to feature the TE. His ability to split out wide, or even line up in the backfield as an H-back will allow him to become a big-time contributor on a team who’s quarterback is more geared toward a short-intermediate passing game, which is what Eifert thrives in.