Cincin­nati Ben­gals

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - AFC NORTH -

The Ben­gals have to make dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions at wide re­ceiver, a pos­i­tive sign for an of­fense that rarely played to its full po­ten­tial in 2016.

Drawn by his rare speed and deep-ball track­ing abil­ity, the Ben­gals used their first-round pick on John Ross and be­lieve he’ll both take safety at­ten­tion away from Pro Bowler A.J.

Green and open things in the mid­dle of the field for TE Tyler

Eifert, who wasn’t healthy last year af­ter a break­out 2015. But an­other rookie, 6-3 Josh Ma

lone, has also made a strong bid for play­ing time. Malone and shifty Alex Er

ick­son, the kick re­turner last year, are push­ing Tyler Boyd for snaps.. Malone’s per­for­mance prob­a­bly means the Ben­gals will keep seven wide re­ceivers.

Like Erick­son, Cody Core is a sec­ond-year player who can play on spe­cial teams and has shown he can pro­duce in the reg­u­lar of­fense.

QB Andy Dal­ton isn’t just think­ing about the ben­e­fits of hav­ing a healthy Eifert back. He’s en­vi­sion­ing hav­ing mul­ti­ple play­ers who can cre­ate in space and make plays in the red zone. Rookie watch: Jake El

li­ott, the first kicker se­lected in the draft, and vet­eran K Randy

Bul­lock have been strong and are com­pet­ing for the start­ing job. Bul­lock has the trust of coaches, so it’s no sure thing that El­liott makes the team.

Note­wor­thy: LB Von­taze Bur­fict has been sus­pended five games for an off-the-ball hit on Kansas City Chiefs full­back An­thony Sher­man in the Ben­gals’ sec­ond pre­sea­son game, The

Cincin­nati En­quirer re­ported. He’s ap­peal­ing the rul­ing. ... Doc­tors told S Shawn Williams he wouldn’t need surgery for a dis­lo­cated el­bow. Williams might miss only the first two games of the sea­son. ... The team con­tin­ues to get strong show­ings from rookie edge de­fen­sive play­ers Jor­dan

Wil­lis and Carl Law­son.

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