Newcomers Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd fill out Cincinnati Bengals' starting lineup

The Cincinnati Bengals open training camp on July 29 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Here's a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Andy Dalton): Dalton has been the Bengals' Week 1 starter the past five seasons, and each of those years has culminated with the team in the playoffs. Yes, AJ McCarron was great in relief late last year, but a healthy Dalton will be given QB1 duties as he tries to get the Bengals off to a second straight 8-0 start.

Running back (Jeremy Hill): Giovani Bernard may have been given a shiny new contract this offseason, but that should have minimal impact on who will be the first running back used in the Bengals' backfield rotation. Despite lower-than-expected production last year, Hill remains the Bengals' bellcow back. That said, his end-of-season production likely will be comparable with Bernard's.

Receiver (A.J. Green): The sixth-year receiver is a five-time Pro Bowler for a reason. He isn't leaving the Bengals' starting lineup anytime soon.

Receiver (Brandon LaFell): LaFell has the best chance of being the Bengals' No. 2 receiver alongside Green. Sure, the seven-year veteran didn't play as he'd have hoped in an injury-affected 2015 season in New England, but coaches like him and believe he will be back to the 2014 form that helped get the Patriots another Super Bowl.

Receiver (Tyler Boyd): Much of the Bengals' projected Week 1 lineup depends upon the formation they come out in at the start of their opener against the Jets. But assuming they have a three-receiver set, the rookie Boyd appears poised to form an explosive trio with Green and LaFell. Like the others, he can line up at any receiver position.

Tight end (Tyler Kroft): Later in the season, Tyler Eifert will be the player listed here. But with uncertainty about the timeline concerning Eifert's return from offseason ankle surgery, Kroft gets the nod. In limited action relieving an injured Eifert last season, Kroft had 11 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.

Left tackle (Andrew Whitworth): The Pro Bowler may be turning 35 in December, but he can still anchor this offensive line. One of the best players on a stout unit, he's entering the last year of his contract.

Left guard (Clint Boling): Like Whitworth, Boling isn't going anywhere. He's an athletic pocket protector who has value in the run game.

Center (Russell Bodine): Shotgun-snap troubles have made Bodine a pariah in his two preseasons with the Bengals. But the young lineman hasn't really had those issues once the regular seasons begin. Although Pro Football Focus has regarded him as the weak link on Cincinnati's offensive line, Bodine has the unwavering support of offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

Right guard (Kevin Zeitler): Entering a contract year himself, Zeitler could really help his stock as a possible free agent next spring. When healthy, his presence has truly bolstered the Bengals' interior line.

Right tackle (Cedric Ogbuehi): Be on the lookout for a position battle at right tackle when camp begins. It's possible 11-year vet Eric Winston earns the job, but it's more likely to go to the young Ogbuehi. Possessing more athleticism than previous right tackle Andre Smith, Ogbuehi has been regarded since his first-round selection last year as the likely heir apparent at right tackle.


Defensive end (Michael Johnson): If Johnson can record five sacks every season (like he did in 2015) with the other pass-rushers the Bengals have on their line, he'll be doing just fine. Until backups Margus Hunt and Will Clarke demonstrate they can outplay Johnson, he'll be in the starting lineup.

Defensive tackle (Geno Atkins): Aside from Aaron Donald, there may not be a defensive tackle in the NFL as intimidating and productive as Atkins. Atkins was back to his old dominant self last season, recording 11 sacks. Expect more of the same from the newlywed this season.

Nose tackle (Domata Peko): Peko is among those entering a contract year, so he'll have the motivation to outperform expectations. Don't be surprised if that happens with the 31-year-old Peko, who had a career-high five sacks last season.

Defensive end (Carlos Dunlap): Dunlap reached a career-high of his own, with 13.5 sacks last season. That's a new Bengals single-season record. Think he deserves to be out of the starting lineup?

Outside linebacker (Vincent Rey): Rey, who signed a three-year extension this spring, could find himself starting at either the weakside or strongside spots. The new contract was a reward after six years of being the equivalent of a star sixth man. He'll mostly play on the weakside for the first three weeks as Vontaze Burfict serves a suspension.

Outside linebacker (Karlos Dansby): This could change after Burfict's suspension ends, but Dansby appears to be the Bengals' top fit on the strongside for Week 1. That's also a position that could see a rotation throughout the season. Dansby is one interception shy of becoming the fifth NFL player to have 40 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career.

Middle linebacker (Rey Maualuga): Assuming he stays at a weight coaches are comfortable with, Maualuga will resume his duties starting in the middle. He and Burfict were slightly overweight this spring. It meant Maualuga didn't participate in any of the open organized team activities (OTAs) or minicamp sessions in May and June.

Cornerback (Adam Jones): As the oldest player in the defensive backfield, Jones is viewed as a leader by his younger teammates. He also has been one of the league's best cover corners recently. Last season, he gave up only one touchdown -- an unbelievable circus catch DeAndre Hopkins made while Jones blanketed him.

Cornerback (Dre Kirkpatrick): This is a pivotal year for Kirkpatrick, who like many others enters the final year on his current deal. How he plays in his second year as a starter could determine whether he has a future in Cincinnati. His mission: tighten up his downfield coverage.

Safety (Shawn Williams): It'll be the first year Williams factors as an every-down contributor. With Reggie Nelson ahead of him the past three years, Williams has toiled as a backup. He made the most of his opportunities, though, with timely interceptions and tackles. He signed a contract extension this spring.

Safety (George Iloka): Iloka got his own extension in March, meaning he will be seen as the deepfield anchor through the 2020 season.

Special teams

Kicker (Mike Nugent): Although he has competition in Zach Hocker during training camp, Nugent will be back in his role as Cincinnati's place-kicker.

Punter (Kevin Huber): Two years removed from a Pro Bowl campaign, Huber will again be called upon to keep the Bengals in favorable field position.

Long-snapper (Clark Harris): Like the others, Harris has been a Bengals special-teams stalwart. He isn't leaving his post.