Bengals' training camp hinges on creating depth

CINCINNATI -- As he addressed reporters before the start of Tuesday's kickoff luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati Bengals team president Mike Brown made an interesting observation about depth.

Every team in the league struggles with creating it, he said.

"It's a rare team that can fill in fully," Brown said.

He's right. Very seldom will you find an NFL roster that's even half full of players who could perform at a high starting level all season. True, NFL rosters are comprised of the world's best football players, but often those lesser-known names are simply role guys who have a specific job that typically gets overlooked.

When injuries hit, that's when a team's depth is tested.

With the arrival of training camp Friday in Cincinnati, depth will be a priority for the Bengals. Over the next five weeks, their primary goal will be to fill out a team that features enough backup and role players to sustain itself when adverse moments strike. Already, one has.

Receiver James Wright's preseason departure for the Injured Reserve means Cincinnati will be looking for his replacement.

Before practice begins, let's look at a few spots where depth will be paramount this training camp:

Quarterback: Teams always need to have a good backup quarterback. Although he looked reasonably impressive in the spring without pads on, second-year quarterback AJ McCarron will be pressed to shine even more in this camp. The Bengals feel content with him as their backup, but they want to be able to completely trust him.

Receiver: Some of the best camp battles will be at this position as the Bengals trying to fill out their final few spots. They also ought to have strong competition at the top between Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, as each tries to prove just how big a role they ought to have in the passing game. Jones has the most to prove after not playing at all last season because of injury.

Tight end: Rookies Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah will look to build on strong showings in the spring. Third-year vet Tyler Eifert will be a lot like Jones with respect to showing if he can bounce back from season-long injuries. As with Jones, the Bengals will limit Eifert some in camp in an effort to keep him healthy.

Offensive line: Depth creation on the line hinges on versatility. Rookie Jake Fisher might have been drafted as a tackle, but he'll be working at four of the five offensive line positions. Similarly, other backups might alternate between center and guard or tackle and guard.

Defensive line: Competition here will be entirely about depth. The starters are practically set, but the Bengals want to see what rotations will look like. This could be a pivotal month for Will Clarke, Pat Sims, Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, among others.

Linebacker: After injuries depleted the unit last season, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's focus this preseason will be to get his reserves as much playing time as possible. He wants to minimize any drop-off in production if similar conditions arise this fall.