There were a few surprises in a projection of the Bengals' starting lineup

James Rapien

CINCINNATI — Most of the Bengals' starting lineup is set heading into the 2020 season. 

Everyone knows that Joe Burrow, A.J. Green, Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd are going to start this year. The same goes for Geno Atkins, D.J. Reader, Carlos Dunlap, Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell and William Jackson III. 

Despite the certainty surrounding most positions, there are still a few spots up for grabs. 

Pro Football Focus has a couple of surprises in their starting lineup projections for the 2020 Bengals. 

Offense

  • QB: Joe Burrow
  • RB: Joe Mixon
  • WR: A.J. Green
  • WR: Tee Higgins
  • Slot: Tyler Boyd
  • TE: C.J. Uzomah
  • LT: Jonah Williams
  • LG: Michael Jordan
  • C: Trey Hopkins
  • RG: Xavier Su’a-Filo
  • RT: Bobby Hart

There aren't many surprises here, except for the second wide receiver spot. There's a lot to like about Higgins, but he has yet to practice against NFL cornerbacks on a regular basis. Given that teams have had a virtual offseason, rookie wide receivers across the league could struggle early on this season. 

The good news is Higgins doesn't have to be the first or second option on offense. He'll battle John Ross for the starting wide receiver spot opposite Green, but both will get significant playing time.

"It’s not a problem to have a lot of weapons," Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said on draft night. "They don’t all need to play 60 plays a game. Sometimes, it’s better when you reduce the amount of the snaps those guys take. Last year, our receivers had to take too many reps, and as the season wears on that affects them. So it’s good to keep adding weapons to the room so that when guys are out there running a route, they’re out there at 100 percent, and they feel fresh and can put their best on the field."

Much like the offense, there weren't many surprises on defense. Another rookie did overtake a veteran for a starting spot in PFF's projections.

Defense

  • DL: Geno Atkins
  • DL: D.J. Reader
  • EDGE: Carlos Dunlap
  • EDGE: Sam Hubbard
  • LB: Logan Wilson
  • LB: Germaine Pratt
  • CB: William Jackson III
  • CB: Trae Waynes
  • CB: Mackensie Alexander
  • S: Jessie Bates III
  • S: Vonn Bell

The Bengals love Logan Wilson, but Josh Bynes is expected to be the Week 1 starter at linebacker. What's surprising about PFF's projection is that they gave Bynes a 76.6 grade last season. They liked what he brought to the Baltimore defense. 

Wilson is certainly the long-term answer at linebacker, but Bynes has the edge going into training camp. 

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