Countdown To Training Camp: Flying Under-the Radar

In a game against the Cleveland Browns, Andrew Billings rushes the passer.
In a game against the Cleveland Browns, Andrew Billings rushes the passer.

Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap...the Bengals have its share of big-time players.

There's no denying that talent wins — ask any coach. They can draw up the greatest plays in the world, but if the players fail to execute, it doesn't matter.

Let's look at some under-the-radar players heading into training camp 2019. These are the guys who don't get much publicity but, though they might not be big stars, help their teams win football games.

Bengals defensive tackle Andrew Billings waits in the tunnel before being introduced before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium.

Andrew Billings

A space eater on the defensive line, Billings took big strides last season. He played in all 16 games and finished with 32 tackles and 2.5 sacks. In fact, Pro Football Focus rated him as the team's most improved player.

Last season at various points, Billings showed he could hold his ground well at the point of attack and was able to regularly push blockers back in the backfield when they tried to take him one-on-one. He racked up 22 run stops compared to only seven in 2017.

Wide Receiver Alex Erickson. Erickson was named a Pro Bowl alternate in 2018. Ranked fifth in 2018 with a 26.2 kick return yard average.

Alex Erickson

The former Wisconsin standout signed with Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent in 2016, and quickly made himself the team's primary returner. Erickson ranked second in the league in kick return yardage (1,049) last season and was Pro Bowl third alternate as a returner.

Erickson shined in the team's offseason workouts. He was one of the most versatile and consistent playmakers the offense showcased making several contested catches. With the right usage, Erickson could be in line for a career year.

Baltimore Ravens running back Javorius Allen (37) runs the ball against Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow (98) in the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)

Ryan Glasgow

When Glasgow went down in Week Three at Carolina, it exposed a shift in the team's defensive tackle depth. Glasgow started off 2018 well regularly rotating in with Billings and Geno Atkins. 

Originally a fourth-round pick of the Bengals in 2017, Glasgow played in all 16 games as a rookie and totaled 23 tackles, seeing action on 36 percent of defensive snaps. He is known as a strong interior run defender with a high motor and excellent awareness. His return should revitalize a pass rush and run defense that dropped in his absence during the second half of last season.

Cincinnati Bengals tackle Cordy Glenn (77) pass blocks in action against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday November 18, 2018 in Baltimore. (Damian Strohmeyer via AP)

Cordy Glenn

Glenn moved from left tackle to left guard during offseason workouts, but the move will likely be reversed now that first round pick Jonah Williams is potentially out for the season. 

He battled a back injury last season, but is fully healthy for 2019. Last year as a pass blocker, Glenn was solid. According to PFF, he earned high grades in the home games against Baltimore, Oakland and Tampa Bay and on the road at Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Indianapolis. 

One area of optimism is last season Glenn played 765 snaps with 500 of them in pass protection. It was the second-highest discrepancy of pass and run blocking attempts in his career. In his time at Buffalo, Glenn plays his best when there is a better run-pass balance.

Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) catches the ball during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018 in Cincinnati. (NFL Photos via AP)

C.J. Uzomah

When Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft and Mason Schreck all went down with injuries, Uzomah stepped up and enjoyed a career year. In 2018, Uzomah played in all 16 games and led the Bengals tight ends with 43 catches for 439 yards and three touchdowns.

That production was good enough to re-sign with the team for three years. With his ability to make contested catches in the middle of the field, as well as block, his versatility is highly valued. What makes Uzomah even more appreciated is what he contributes on special teams. Expect more from Uzomah as he looks to flourish in Zac Taylor's scheme.

Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Nick Vigil (59) in coverage during a week 14 NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, Dec. 9 in Carson, Calif. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

Nick Vigil

Here is a fun fact heading into 2019. Nick Vigil tied safetys Jessie Bates and Shawn Williams as the only Bengals defenders last year to record double-digits in tackles in three games. His ability to cover running backs and tight ends in the middle of the field makes him a highly important piece to the defense's success.

The issue in Vigil's career though has been availability. He's played in 22 out of 32 potential games the last two seasons. In 2018 without him in the lineup, the Bengals defense allowed 476.2 yards per game and went 1-4 in those contests. When he returned from a knee injury in the middle of the year, the defense looked much better allowing 297 yards per game.

About Training Camp

Bengals fans will have numerous opportunities to watch Taylor's first public practices as Bengals Training Camp, presented by Fifth Third Bank, kicks off on Saturday, July 27 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton. The team will hold a series of open practices in Cincinnati from July 28-Aug. 12.

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