Bengals' Vontaze Burfict could be starting Week 1 for first time since 2014

Dalton picks his preferred receiver (0:45)

Bengals QB Andy Dalton says that if the game was on the line and both receivers were open, he'd pick to throw to A.J. Green because he's earned it whereas John Ross is new to the team. (0:45)

The Cincinnati Bengals could have as many as seven new starters when the NFL season opens. Here’s a starting lineup projection:


Quarterback (Andy Dalton): Dalton proved his worth during the 2015 campaign and has cut down on his interceptions significantly in the last two seasons. If the team can keep him upright, he should have a good seventh season as the Bengals’ starting quarterback.

Tailback (Jeremy Hill): The starting job might be the veteran’s to lose, but after a less-than-stellar 2016 campaign, rookie Joe Mixon will be hot on his heels. Expect the two to split time and carries this season. Giovani Bernard should also factor in heavily despite coming off an ACL tear in November.

Wide receiver (A.J. Green): His 2016 season ended early with a hamstring injury after he began the year on a record pace. At full strength, he is one of the best receivers in the league.

Wide receiver (Brandon LaFell): LaFell signed a new, two-year contract with the Bengals after joining the team last season. While it might be a more crowded group than last year, expect the Bengals to use LaFell a lot.

Wide receiver (Tyler Boyd): Boyd was the team’s primary slot receiver last year and he’ll play that role again this year. Look out for John Ross, however, who should be in the mix early and often as a speedy receiver to stretch the field.

Tight end (Tyler Eifert): Eifert has one season left on his contract with a lot to prove after battling back and ankle injuries last year. When he’s healthy, he is the Bengals’ best red-zone threat.

Left tackle (Cedric Ogbuehi): The 2015 first-rounder struggled last season when asked to start at right tackle for the first time. He has an even bigger task now as he replaces longtime starter Andrew Whitworth on the left side.

Left guard (Clint Boling): Boling battled a shoulder injury for most of last season, but he’s been one of the most reliable players on the O-line. He’s also the most tenured as he prepares for his sixth season as a starter.

Center (Russell Bodine): Bodine has been serviceable as the team’s starting center and has never missed a start in three seasons.

Right guard (Andre Smith): Smith was the team’s starting right tackle for several years before leaving in 2016 for a short stint with the Vikings. He’s now back with the Bengals, where he’ll play guard for the first time in his career.

Right tackle (Jake Fisher): Fisher hasn’t gotten much playing time beyond backup duty despite being the team’s second-round pick in 2015. He got a promotion by default this year with Ogbuehi switching sides, and will likely begin the season as a starter for the first time.


Defensive end (Carlos Dunlap): Dunlap finished last season with eight sacks and 15 pass deflections.

Defensive end (Michael Johnson): Johnson’s pass-rushing ability hasn’t reached the highs of his 2012 season, but as one of the longtime leaders of the team, he’s likely not moving from his starting position for a while.

Defensive tackle (Geno Atkins): When he’s at his best, Atkins is among the top interior defenders in the game. Atkins has 20 sacks in the last two seasons.

Defensive tackle (Andrew Billings): Billings sat out his rookie season with a knee injury, but now is expected to fill the shoes of departed nose tackle Domata Peko.

Weakside linebacker (Vontaze Burfict): Burfict has not started Week 1 since 2014 due to a combination of surgery and suspensions. He heads into training camp looking lighter, healthy and with no discipline problems hanging over his head.

Middle linebacker (Kevin Minter): The Bengals released Rey Maualuga in favor of the younger Minter, who spent four years with the Cardinals. Minter will receive the defensive playcalls from the headset this season.

Strongside linebacker (Nick Vigil): Vigil, a third-round pick in 2016, will replace Karlos Dansby. Vigil played sparingly last year but is expected to begin 2017 as a starter.

Cornerback (Dre Kirkpatrick): Kirkpatrick signed a five-year, $52.5 million contract in the offseason, putting him in the Bengals’ plans for the next several years.

Cornerback (Adam Jones): Jones will miss the first game while serving a suspension, but should be back by the second week of the season. It's likely Darqueze Dennard or William Jackson III will start in his place for the season opener.

Strong safety (Shawn Williams): Williams will enter his second season as the starting strong safety. He had two interceptions last year.

Free safety (George Iloka): Iloka is entering his fifth season as a Bengals starter.

Special teams

Kicker (Jake Elliott): The Bengals spent a fifth-round pick on Elliott, so although he’s technically in a competition with two other kickers this summer, this should be Elliott’s job to lose.

Punter (Kevin Huber): Huber is entering his ninth season and won’t face any competition for the role. Although his net average dropped to 39.5 yards last season, Huber has been about as reliable as it gets for Cincinnati.

Long snapper (Clark Harris) Harris missed three games last year with an injury, but he’s in no danger of losing his job as he enters his ninth season as the Bengals’ long snapper.