1. Defensive End
Barring the bad luck of again having his team's linebacking corps decimated by injuries, Robert Geathers should find himself back starting at one end spot. But Justin Smith is a free agent, and after a poor 2007 in which he was tagged as the team's franchise player, probably won't be back. 2006 third-rounder Frostee Rucker played in the first five games of his career and totaled seven tackles: he'll be fighting just to keep his roster spot in 2008. The Bengals could be helped here if OLB/DE David Pollack is able to make a near-miraculous comeback from his 2006 neck injury.
A lot of potential here, but little to count on. In addition to the unlikely return of Pollack, there's the possible return of 2005 second-rounder Odell Thurman. He played like a future All-Pro at times during his rookie season, but off-field issues kept him off the field for two years. He's practicing with the team again and if he's allowed to play, and does so at his old level, it will be a big boost. Ahmad Brooks has loads of talent but has been unable to stay healthy; if he can, he could be the centerpiece of this unit for years to come. Leading tackler Landon Johnson is a free agent, as is Dhani Jones who is strictly an insurance policy at this point in his career. Lemar Marshall, another free agent, is 31 and coming off of an Achilles tear.
3. Defensive Tackle
Second-year nose tackle Domata Peko played well enough in his first year as a starter to retain the job. The position could be upgraded, but it's not a necessity. What is a necessity is an explosive under tackle with an ability to shoot into the backfield and disrupt some plays. John Thornton was the starter last season and could fill a situational role on passing downs and be a decent backup.
4. Offensive Tackle
Levi Jones should be back to his old self at left tackle. But right tackle Willie Anderson turns 33 in July, and Stacy Andrews, who took great strides last season, is a free agent. Andrew Whitworth could switch from guard back to tackle if needed, which helps keep this from being a higher need.
5. Wide Receiver
T.J. Houshmandzadeh proved to casual fans just how valuable he is (hardcore fans, and dedicated Bengal fans, already knew). But how long will Chad Johnson be sticking around? And is Chris Henry going to do the things a pro needs to do, on and off the field, to be a consistent player?
Though he's serviceable, Eric Ghiaciuc is the weak link on the line. The Bengals could use an upgrade here.
7. Tight End
Reggie Kelly's adequate, and the team reportedly likes Daniel Coats' potential, but the depth could be improved.