CINCINNATI (WKRC) - This marks the sixth of a seven-part series detailing each position group for the Bengals heading into training camp, which begins on July 28.
This part analyzes the linebackers with a look at who are locks to make the 53-man roster when it's finalized on Sept. 2, who are likely to make it, who is in the mix to make it and who are longshots to make it:
How many will likely be kept: 7-8.
The Skinny: There was arguably no worse position group on the Bengals' roster last season than linebacker.
Some of it was due to a combination of the team's best linebacker (Burfict) missing five games due to suspension and injury, another starter (Rey Maualuga) have his skills diminish to the point that he was released in March and another starter (Karlos Dansby) prove to be a step slow at age 35, which led to the team allowing him to leave as a free agent.
Outside of veteran Vinny Rey the depth behind that group either wasn't good enough or too inexperienced to play much.
The Bengals need Burfict to stay healthy. Due to the combination of suspension and injury he was limited to just 26 games over the last three seasons combined. The lone season he played all 16 games (2013) he was selected to the Pro Bowl. He is among the top linebackers in the NFL when healthy.
Minter was signed as a free agent to takeover at middle linebacker, while Vigil made progress in the offseason and through OTAs and mini-camp to get first crack at the outside linebacker spot that Dansby played.
Rey is also back in a super-utility role as he can play all three linebacker spots and in nickel packages.
The team also drafted two linebackers (Lawson and Evans) with different skills sets. Lawson will be utilized primarily as a pass rusher in a variety of ways, while Evans is more suited to playing in nickel situations, although he will certainly be a backup.
That leaves likely one spot open.
Dawson has been a big disappointment since being taken in the third round of the 2015 draft, while Flowers is a special teams player at best.
Albright, Bell and Nickerson each has a chance to make it. Bell had some impressive moments in OTAs and mini-camp.