Offseason Story: Bengals Turning The Page

The coaching carousel spun like a wheel, but 17 of the Bengals' 22 depth-chart starters at the end of the season are due back in 2016.

The Cincinnati coaching staff is getting an offseason makeover under head coach Marvin Lewis, but the on-field personnel may look similar in 2016 as the Bengals attempt to better a 12-4 regular-season record that equaled the best in team history.

Of the 22 depth-chart starters at the end of 2015, 17 are due back, with five scheduled to test free-agency. The five who could leave include Pro Bowl safety Reggie Nelson, fellow safety George Iloka, cornerback Adam Jones, wide receiver Marvin Jones and offensive tackle Andre Smith.

On the flip side, five of the Bengals' six Pro Bowl selections are under contract for 2016. They include defensive tackle Geno Atkins (first-team All-Pro), wide receiver A.J. Green (five Pro Bowls), tight end Tyler Eifert (13 touchdowns in 2015), offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (first-team All-Pro) and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (13.5 sacks).

“I don’t think we’ll have as much change with players as some people have speculated,” Lewis told the team's official web site. "We’ll do a good job of getting guys back here, and signed. I think our guys know they have a good home here. There’s a lot of pieces in place.”

Also in the fold are quarterback and Pro Bowl first alternate Andy Dalton, the AFC passing leader, plus running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill and most of the offensive line. On defense, highlighting the expected returnees are middle linebacker Rey Maualuga and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, presumably after a season-starting suspension.

According to the Bengals, Elias Sports Bureau says that prior to 2015, there were 28 instances of an NFL team making the playoffs five straight seasons. Of those 28, 18 made it back a sixth straight year, a success rate of 64 percent.

“This was the best team I’ve played on,” said Whitworth, who completed his 10th season with the Bengals. “People can criticize this team for (not winning) playoff appearances. But they have to acknowledge the resolve that this team has shown to get back to the playoffs. It’s tremendous, and there are all kinds of reasons to look ahead and not behind.”

The Bengals' regular-season record over the last five seasons is 52-27-1, a .656 winning percentage, fifth-best in the NFL in that span.


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