Quarterback : Ken Anderson
Anderson was drafted in the third round of the 1971 draft by the Bengals and ended up starting four games that year. Though he lost each start, Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown liked what he saw and named Anderson his full-time starter. He then proceeded to have six consecutive seasons with a winning record as a starter.
While showing a great ability to not turn over the ball often, Anderson began to excel. He led the NFL in completions, passing yards, completion percentage, passer rating, yards per game, and yards gained per attempt in 1974. He made his first Pro Bowl the next year after leading the league in passer rating, yards passing, yards gained per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, and yards per game.
After making the Pro Bowl again in 1976, the team struggled between 1978 to 1980. They were the first losing seasons he had as a starter since his rookie year. This caused Anderson to rebound his team, which he did with a vengeance in 1981.
He became the first Bengals NFL MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and only Bert Bell Man of the Year Award winner in team history after a Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro year that saw him toss a career best 29 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. He led the NFL in touchdown percentage, interception percentage, adjusted yards per attempt, and passer rating. The Bengals reached Super Bowl XVI, where he completed 73.5 percent of his passes, which was 25. Both were Super Bowl records at the time, and he also scored on a five-yard run as Cincinnati lost to San Francisco.
The 1982 season was his last as a Pro Bowler. In a game against the San Diego Chargers, the team the Bengals beat in the famous "Freezer Bowl" in the AFC Championship the year before, Anderson and Hall of Famer Dan Fouts became the first quarterbacks in NFL history to both throw for over 400 yards in the same game. Anderson led the NFL in completions, completion percentage, interception percentage, and passer rating. His 70.6 completion percentage is an NFL record though Drew Brees tied it in the quarterback friendly rules of 2009.
Though he led the NFL in completion percentage in 1983, his game began to falter over the next two years as he had losing records and threw more interceptions than touchdowns each season. The Bengals then inserted 1984 second round pick Boomer Esiason as the starter, relegating the 36-year old Anderson to backup duty before retiring after 1986. Esiason, coincidentally, would become the second NFL MVP in Bengals history during 1988 after leading the team to the Super Bowl before losing to San Francisco.
Ken Anderson has somehow yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though he is certainly worthy. As well as holding the record for completion percentage in a season, as well as once holding the Super Bowl completion percentage record, he once completed 20 of 22 passes against the mighty Steel Curtain defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. He also has the second best postseason quarterback rating in NFL history.
He still ranks in the top-30 in completions, attempts, and passing yards in NFL history despite the fact he was sacked the ninth most ever. He once led the NFL in 1979 by being sacked 46 times. He also holds a team record by tossing for 447 yards in 1975, along with several other team records. Not only is he the first Bengals quarterback to go to the Pro Bowl or be named First Team All-Pro, his four Pro Bowls are the most ever by any Bengals quarterback.
Not only is Ken Anderson the winningest quarterback in team history, but he is an NFL great. The Bengals never allowed anyone to wear his jersey number until he took a job with the rival Steelers and earned a Super Bowl ring mentoring Ben Roethlisberger. If the Bengals ever create a Ring of Honor, Anderson may be one of the very first inducted.
Boomer Esiason, Greg Cook, and Jeff Blake deserve mention.
Fullback : Pete Johnson
Drafted in the second round of the 1977 draft, Johnson was teamed up with Archie Griffin again. The pair were together in college, where Griffin became the only person to win multiple Heisman Trophies. By his second year, Johnson was the main ball carrier for Cincinnati and also was used often in the passing game.
In 1979, he scored 14 times on the ground and once in the air, which was the third most in the league. After a solid 1980 season, he had his best year in the NFL in 1981, which was the only time Johnson went to the Pro Bowl. He set career highs with 274 carries for 1,077 yards, 46 receptions for 320 yards, and 16 total scores. It helped the Bengals reach their first Super Bowl in franchise history, as Johnson scored once in each playoff victory.
The 1982 season was shortened to just nine games, but Johnson was still able to run for 626 yards, catch 31 balls, and score seven times. He then tied his career best mark of 14 rushing touchdowns the next year, his last with the Bengals. He was traded to the San Diego Chargers for James Brooks and scored three times in three games before being dealt to the Miami Dolphins. After scoring nine times in 13 games, he retired.
Not only is his 64 rushing touchdowns the most in team history, the 5,421 rushing yards Johnson had was a team record until Corey Dillon passed it in 2002. It still ranks third most in team history, and the most by any Bengals fullback. His 14 rushing touchdowns was a team record until Icky Woods passed it by one in 1988. The 420 points he score ranks fifth in team history, and is the most by any non-kicker.
Pete Johnson is not only the first Bengals fullback to go to the Pro Bowl, but he is their best ever. A bruising runner with soft hands, he was also a crushing blocker who was one of the more underrated players of his time. Playing in the shadow of division rival Franco Harris, a Hall of Fame fullback, he didn't always get the notoriety or accolades he deserved. Still, Bengals fans know how good he was for their team.
Ickey Woods, Lorenzo Neal, and Larry Kinnebrew deserve mention.
Halfback : Corey Dillon
Dillon was drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft by the Bengals. He started just six games as a rookie because Ki-Jana Carter, the first overall pick of the 1995 draft, was ahead of him on the depth chart. It didn't stop Dillon from gaining 1,129 yards and scoring ten times on the ground. He also set a rookie record by running for 246 yards in one game. He also scored four times in that game, a team record that still stands today.
His first Pro Bowl year was in 1999, after gaining 1,200 yards. It was the first of three consecutive Pro Bowl games. He set a team record by running for 1,435 yards in 2000, a season that saw him set an then-NFL record by running for 278 yards in a game. He scored 13 times the next year, including a career long 96-yard jaunt that led the NFL and set a Bengals for longest offensive play ever.
The 2003 season was his seventh in the league, as well as the first time he failed to run for over 1,000 yards in a season. He was mostly injured that year, so the Bengals decided to lean on Rudi Johnson. Johnson, who had only played nine games in two years previously, would end up with the second most rushing yards in Bengals history when he was done.
The New England Patriots traded a second round draft pick for Dillon's services. The move paid off big, as he ran for a career best 1,635 yards on a career high 345 carries while tying his career best mark of 13 scores. He was named to his final Pro Bowl as he helped carry the Patriots to a Super Bowl XXXIX win. It was the first 1,600-yard rushing year in Patriots history, a record that still stands.
After two more solid seasons that saw him match his career best mark of 13 scores, despite missing four games and nine starts because of injuries, he retired at the end of the 2006 season. He is a member of the Patriots 2000's All-Decade Team.
Of the 18 records Dillon set with the Bengals, 16 still stand. He is the only Bengals back to have six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and three of them were the top ranked in Bengal history at the time. Johnson now holds the top spot, thus making them second, third, and fourth. He has the most rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in Cincinnati history. He also holds two of the top nine single game rushing performances in league history, and his 11,241 rushing yards is the 17th most in NFL history.
The three Pro Bowls he went to as a Bengals are one less than James Brooks as the most in team history. Cincinnati may have drafted him as insurance for Carter, still recovering from a devastating injury incurred as a rookie, but they ended up acquiring the best running back in team history. When the Bengals create their Ring of Honor, Corey Dillon should be amongst the first to go in.
James Brooks, Paul Robinson, Harold Green, Rudi Johnson, Essex Johnson, Boobie Clark, and Archie Griffin deserve mention.
Wide Receiver : Isaac Curtis
Curtis almost never had a career in pro football. He spent his first three years in college running track and playing as a little used halfback at the University of California before transferring to San Diego State for his senior year. The legendary Don Coryell was the head coach there, and he quickly switched Curtis to wide receiver. A star was quickly born and the Bengals used their first round pick, 15th overall, in 1973 to grab him.
He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons in the NFL. Not only did he grab 32 touchdown passes over that time, he averaged over twenty yards at catch on 200 receptions. Curtis led the NFL with a career best 21.2 yards per catch average in 1975 after accumulating a 21.1 average the season before.
His streak of Pro Bowls ended in 1977 after missing six games due to injuries, but he spent the rest of his career as a very productive member of the Bengals. The 1978 season saw him catch a career best 47 balls as the team went through personnel changes. They reached Super Bowl XVI in 1981 with Curtis and Cris Collinsworth teaming as an effective deep threat duo.
He retired after the 1984 season with 416 receptions, which was a team record at the time. It still ranks as the fifth best in team history. His 7,101 receiving yards was a team record until it was surpassed by Chad Ochocinco in 2007, and the 17.1 yards per catch Curtis averaged in his career is easily the best in franchise history by any Bengal with more than 94 catches with the team. His 53 touchdown catches still ranks third best in team history, and his four Pro Bowls are the second most by a Bengals wide receiver.
Cincinnati has had many great wide receivers in the history of their team, yet few have been the constant deep threat that Isaac Curtis was. He struck fear in opponents because it was common to see Curtis blow by defenders to catch a long pass. He was also excellent once grabbing the ball, showing off his skills that had him play running back in college.
Picking the greatest wide receiver in Bengals history is not easy because of Ochocinco, Collinsworth, Carl Pickens, Eddie Brown, and others, but Isaac Curtis is always in the discussion and amongst the first names mentioned always. He quite likely is the greatest receiver the team has ever had. It should be noted how he succeeded in the ten-yard chuck rule era while facing great cornerbacks who excelled in man-to-man defense like Hall of Famer Mel Blount, Zeke Moore, Clarence Scott, and Ron Bolton twice a year.
Wide Receiver : Cris Collinsworth
The Bengals drafted Collinsworth in the second round of the 1981 draft, and he became an immediate star. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, grabbing a career best 67 balls while gaining 1,009 yards and scoring eight times. Cincinnati reached Super Bowl XVI, where Collinsworth led all players with 107 yards off five receptions in their loss t the San Francisco 49ers.
He went back to the Pro Bowl in each of the next two seasons. He has 49 receptions for 700 yards in just nine games during the strike shortened 1982 season, then followed that up with a career best 1,130 yards off 66 receptions the next season. After a solid 1984 season, Collinsworth tried to jump to the United States Football League, but failed a physical with the Tampa Bay Bandits because of a bad ankle.
Returning to the Bengals he caught a career high 10 touchdown passes in 1986, year that saw him exceed 60 receptions for the fifth straight year and sixth time out of seven seasons. It would be the last time he accomplished this feat. After a 1987 season season shortened by a players strike, Collinsworth became a little used reserve in 1988. The Bengals reached Super Bowl , where his three catches for 40 yards were second on the team in the Bengals loss to the 49ers. He retired after the game, and has become an award-winning sports journalist on several television networks since.
At the time, his 417 receptions were the most in team history and are still the fourth most. His 6,698 yards rank fourth best, and his 36 scores, ranked second most at the time of his retirement, rank seventh best. The three Pro Bowls he had still rank the third most ever by a Bengals wide receiver.
Though his spot may be taken after Chad Ochocinco retires, it may not as well. At 6'5", Collinsworth was a tall player who used his height to out jump defenders for the ball. Yet he also had excellent speed to get down field as a deep threat, finishing with a 16.1 yards per catch average. Despite having two seasons basically stolen from him due to players strikes, Collinsworth was reliable, productive, spectacular, and consistent for Cincinnati. Many Bengals fans would tell you he is the best wide receiver the team ever had.
Eddie Brown, Carl Pickens, Chip Meyers, and Darnay Scott deserve mention.
Tight End : Bob Trumpy
Trumpy was drafted in the 12th round of the 1968 draft, the 301st player overall, by the expansion Bengals. Cincinnati was a new member of the American Football League at the time, and the AFL would fully merge with the NFL in two seasons. He impressed his Hall of Fame head coach Paul Brown with his work ethic, so Brown named him the starter as a rookie.
Cincinnati was rewarded with 37 receptions at a 17.3 yards per catch clip, which got him named to the Pro Bowl. Trumpy returned the next year by setting a still standing team record of a whopping 22.6 yards per catch average off another 37 receptions. He also scored a career high nine times and was named First Team All-Pro for his efforts.
In his first year in the post-merger NFL in 1970, Trumpy went back to the Pro Bowl. He went back for the final time in 1973 before seeing a decline in receiving opportunities. Though he caught seven touchdowns off of 21 catches in 1976, he retired at the end of the 1977 season. At the time of his retirement, almost ever Bengals receiving record was owned by him. His last touchdown came off a rare reverse flea flicker, where three other Bengals touched the ball before it reached him.
What makes Bob Trumpy's career special is not just the fact he helped an expansion team grow up fast with his help, as they had only three losing seasons in his ten years, but how he accumulated his excellent statistics. Cincinnati has eight different quarterbacks throwing him the ball during his career, yet he remained a viable threat regardless.
Besides still owning the team record for yards per catch in a season, the 35 touchdowns Trumpy scored are the most ever by any Bengal tight end in team history. He still ranks tenth is total receptions for a career, and his career average of 15.4 yards per catch show how good he was with the ball after getting it.
Not only is he the first Pro Bowl player in Bengals history, an honor he shares with halfback Paul Robinson and center Bob Johnson, he is the second Bengal ever to be named First Team All-Pro. He is also the only Bengals tight end to be named First Team All-Pro. Bob Trumpy is the greatest tight end the team has ever had.
Dan Ross, Rodney Holman, and Tony McGee deserve mention.
Offensive Tackle : Willie Anderson
Cincinnati used their first round draft selection, tenth overall, to tab Anderson. He was soon starting, and was a mainstay of their offensive line for 11 years. After missing two games in 1999, he would not miss a game nor start again until 2007.
Though he had long been considered an upper echelon left tackle for years, Anderson was finally recognized in 2003 with the first of four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. He was named First Team All-Pro for the final three seasons he achieved this honor. After being hurt in 2007, forcing him to miss the first nine games of his career, Cincinnati released him after he refused to take a reduction in salary.
The Baltimore Ravens were having injury issues along their offensive line in 2008, so they signed Anderson. He started in 11 of the 14 games he played in, then retired for good having only missed 11 out of a possible 204 games over 13 seasons.
Cincinnati has only had two offensive tackles go to the Pro Bowl, Anderson and the legendary Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz. Munoz is considered the greatest left tackle in NFL history by many, but Willie Anderson was special in his own right and very underrated. There were several years he probably should have gone to the Pro Bowl, but future Hall of Famers Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden were in his way of attaining the honor. So strong that he once reportedly lifted 675 lbs, Anderson was also very athletic and was solid in every aspect. After Munoz, he may be the best blocker in Bengals history.
Offensive Tackle : Joe Walter
Walter was drafted in the seventh round of the 1985 draft by Cincinnati. He began to earn a starters job in his second season, starting in eight games. He would then start in 156 of a possible 172 games over the next nine years. He missed 12 games because of injury.
After a 1997 season where he was only able to suit up for five games because of injuries, Walter retired. Though he never made the Pro Bowl, he was an excellent player. Three different halfbacks and a fullback ran for over 1,000 yards and two made the Pro Bowl over his career. He was also part of an explosive offense that reached a Super Bowl and had the quarterback named NFL MVP.
Many offensive linemen go through a career without being noticed much unless they make an error. Joe Walter was rock solid for over a decade for the Bengals, helping lead them to some of the biggest successes in franchise history. He may be the finest right tackle they ever had.
Ernie Wright, Kevin Sargent, and Levi Jones deserve mention.
Guard : Max Montoya
Montaya was a seventh round draft pick of the Bengals in 1979. Though he played just 11 games as a rookie, he quickly earned the starting job and started in nine games.He would remain a starter the rest of his time in Cincinnati.He missed ten starts and six games over the next 10 years because of injury, but there was perhaps no more underrated right guard in the NFL than him.
Though he was an elite guard in the NFL, it took until 1986 for him to be recognized with a Pro Bowl nod. He would repeat the honor in both 1987 and 1988 before leaving the Bengals for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1990. The Raiders made it to the AFC Championship that year, after defeating the Bengals in the Division Playoff Game, only to be destroyed by the Buffalo Bills 51-3.
After missing 13 games the next two years because of injuries, Montoya made his last Pro Bowl in 1994. He retired the next year after being a reserve all season, having started in 203 games in his 16 seasons. He paved the way for running backs like Eric Dickerson, Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson, James Brooks, Pete Johnson, Roger Craig, Napoleon Kaufman, Icky Woods, and several others. He also helped quarterbacks Ken Anderson and Boomer Esiason win NFL MVP as the team reached the Super Bowl twice.
Max Montoya is the only Bengals guard to ever get named to the Pro Bowl. He is probably the greatest guard in the franchises history.
Guard : Bruce Reimers
Reimers was an eighth round draft pick of the Bengals in 1985. He began to break into the starting lineup by his third season. Besides starting at left guard, Reimers was a versatile player who often filled in at the tackle positions as well. He was an integral member of an offensive line that saw the Bengals become the highest scoring team in 1988, where they appeared in Super Bowl XXIII.
Cincinnati stumbled to a three win season in 1991, and Reimers was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1992. He lasted two years there, starting in 26 of the 27 games he played, before retiring at the end of the 1993 season. Though he never made the Pro Bowl, Reimers was a valuable player who was versatile and technically sound. He is one of the better blockers in team history.
Dave Lapham, Howard Fest, Pat Matson, Eric Steinbach, Bobbie Williams, and Glenn Bujnoch deserve mention.
Center : Bob Johnson
The first player ever drafted by the Bengals, the second overall selection in 1968, Johnson started right away and excelled. He became the first Bengals blocker to make a Pro Bowl in his rookie year, and still remains the only Bengals center to have ever achieved this honor.
After starting and playing in ever Bengals game his first six years, Johnson missed four games in 1974 because of injury. He did manage to have a reception for three yards that year as well. He remained the leader of the unit until 1977, never missing a game.
In 1978, Cincinnati used their first round pick on center Blair Bush and inserted him into the lineup. Johnson did appear in 13 games, but the main job of the 32-year old was to mentor Bush. After five games played in 1979, he became the last original Bengal to retire. The Bengals soon retired his number, and it still remains the only number the franchise has ever awarded this honor to.
Though the team has had several excellent centers in their history, none are better than the first one who ever played the position for them. Bob Johnson may be the first Bengal inducted into their Ring of Honor if the team ever creates one.
Blair Bush, Dave Rimington, Rich Braham, Dan Brilz, and Bruce Kozerski deserve mention.
Defensive Tackle : Mike Reid
Reid was the Bengals first round pick in 1970, the same season Cincinnati won their division and made the playoffs in just their third year of existence. Reid had quickly established himself as a top defensive force in the NFL by racking up 12 sacks in his second season.
In 1972, he became the first Bengals defensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl and be named First Team All-Pro after collecting another 12 sacks. He topped that mark with 13 the next year, making the Pro Bowl again. After a 1974 season that saw him battle through hand and knee injuries, yet missing no games, Reid unexpectedly retired.
He had a passion for composing and playing music, and has since written 12 songs that reached number one, won a Grammy, and has been inducted unto the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. The NFL Alumni Association honored him with a Career Achievement Award in 1996.
Though Mike Reid played just five seasons for Cincinnati, he collected 49 sacks and became the first Bengals defensive player to go to the Pro Bowl and be named First Team All-Pro. His two Pro Bowls is tied with Coy Bacon and Tim Krumrie as the most by a Bengals defensive lineman in team history. Though his 49 sacks were not an official statistic in his era, the team recorded them and it is still the most in team history by a defensive tackle. He is most likely the best defensive player the team ever had.
Defensive Tackle : Tim Krumrie
Krumrie was drafted in the tenth round of the 1983 draft by Cincinnati. He started the year on the bench, but was starting before the end of the year. He would go on to start every game up until 1994 at the demanding nose tackle position, and he never missed a game his entire career.
He had a career best five sacks his second season, but his specialty was stuffing the run. After piling up a whopping 113 tackles in 1986, he had an amazing 88 tackles in just 12 games during the strike shortened 1987 season. Not to be outdone, the 1988 season saw him get an astonishing 152 tackles and career best three fumble recoveries. He was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro.
That effort helped propel the Bengals into Super Bowl XXIII, where Krumrie broke both his tibia and fibula during the game. He had to have a steel rod inserted into his leg, but he missed no time and still had 73 tackles and three sacks the following year. He continued to be a force in the middle, never having a season with less than 68 tackles.
In 1994, the Bengals switched to a 4-3 defense to accommodate Dan Wilkinson. Wilkinson had just been drafted first overall in the draft, so Cincinnati thought the 4-3 would best suit his skills. Krumrie was relegated to a reserve role at 34-years old and entering his 12th season, yet he did start four games. He retired at the end of the year.
The 1,017 tackles Krumrie had are far and away the most in team history. His 188 games played are the third most in team history, and the most by a defensive lineman. His two Pro Bowls and one First Team All-Pro are tied as the most ever by a Bengals defensive lineman, and he is the only nose tackle in team history to have accomplished either feat.
Tim Krumrie is an underrated nose tackle who is definitely one of the best to have ever played the position. He averaged almost six tackles a game for his career, a stellar statistic for any nose tackle. Comparing him to four time Pro Bowler Ted Washington Jr., a 15-year veteran, Krumrie had 261 more tackles than a man considered one of the best ever at the position in 48 less games.
He is easily the best nose tackle in Bengals history.
Steve Chomyszak, Wilson Whitley, Ron Carpenter, Dan Wilkinson, and Kimo von Oelhoffen deserves mention.
Defensive End : Coy Bacon
Bacon was an undrafted rookie signed by the Los Angeles Rams right before the 1968 season. Bacon had just come from playing in the Continental Football League. He had signed with the Charleston Rockets in 1966, after leaving Jackson State University upon completion of his sophomore year. While playing with the Rockets, Bacon was named an All-Star as a defensive end in 1966. Other NFL luminaries like Bill Walsh, Ken Stabler, and Garo Yepremian also were in the Continental Football League.
The 1968 Rams team that had one of the best defensive lines in football, featuring Hall of Famers Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen. They were called "The Fearsome Foursome", and Bacon played just seven games as a reserve in his rookie year. He cracked the starting lineup the next year, and started 13 games at defensive tackle. He was moved to defensive end in 1970, recording 20 sacks,and took a fumble 14 yards for a touchdown. Bacon then had 21 sacks and intercepted a pass the next year. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1972, and then was traded to the San Diego Chargers after that season as part of a blockbuster deal.
He picked off a pass that year, and took it 80 yards for a touchdown. Bacon also led the Chargers in sacks in two of his three seasons with them. Right after the 1975 season, the Chargers traded Bacon to the Bengals for Hall of Fame wide receiver Charlie Joiner. He responded with a team record 21.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries returned for 48 yards and a safety. He was named to the Pro Bowl.
He made his last Pro Bowl the next year for the Bengals, despite missing two games. The Bengals then traded Bacon to the Washington Redskins right before 1978. Being the pass rusher the Redskins desperately needed, he recorded double digits in sacks in each of his first three seasons with them. The Redskins released him after a injury filled 1981 that saw him play three games, but Bacon was not done playing. He joined the Washington Federals of the USFL in 1983, and had seven sacks at 41-years old before retiring permanently.
Bacon played in an era where sacks were not a recorded statistic. Some researchers have credited him with over 130 sacks in his career. If you discount the three games he played in 1981, you can easily see he averaged 10 sacks every year of his career. That includes his first two seasons as a defensive tackle. Bacon was one of the best pass rushers to ever play the game.
He was noted as a character who would not like to practice during the week of a game, reserving his energies for Sunday. He wasn't always stout against the run in the latter part of his career, but he made several spectacular plays when his team needed it most.
Coy Bacon is worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Though he played just two years for the Bengals, he made two of his three career Pro Bowl appearances with them. He is also the only defensive end the Bengals ever had go to the Pro Bowl, and his two games ties Mike Reid and Tim Krumrie as the most ever by a Cincinnati defensive lineman. Bacon could be the best defensive end the team ever employed.
Defensive End : Eddie Edwards
Edwards was the Bengals first round draft pick, third overall, in 1977. He started right away, and would remain entrenched at the starting left defensive end position until his last season in 1988. Besides intercepting a pass his second year, Edwards scored his only touchdown in 1986 off a fumble recovery.
Edwards was a versatile player who started at every position on the defensive line in his career. He was one of the most underrated players of his era, yet he was well known by opposing quarterbacks. Though the NFL credits him with 47.5 sacks, a statistic they did not recognize until 1982, Edwards actually had 83.5 in his 12 seasons. He is the all-time leader in Bengals history for career sacks both officially and unofficially. His 17 fumble recoveries are the most ever by any Bengals defensive lineman.
Though Cincinnati has had quite a few good defensive ends in their history thus far, none are better than Eddie Edwards.
John Copeland, Royce Berry, Sherman White, Gary Burley, Justin Smith, Harry Gunner, and Ross Browner deserves mention.
Outside Linebacker : Reggie Williams
Williams was drafted in the third round of the 1976 draft by the Bengals after an outstanding career at Dartmouth University that saw him inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, where he frequently tackled future teammate Pat McInally while McInally starred at Harvard University.
Starting right away at right outside linebacker, he would hold that job his 14 seasons and missed just seven games total despite playing on an injured knee virtually his entire career that required 14 surgeries so far after his retirement. His rookie season saw him named to the NFL All-Rookie Team.
He scored the first touchdown of his career in his second season off of a 54-yard interception return, but he was also excellent off the blitz, He recorded safeties in 1980 and 1982, and led the NFL with four fumble recoveries in 1982. He matched that total the next year, taking one for a score.
The last five years of his career saw Cincinnati ask him to cover less on the pass and focus on rushing the passer more. When he retired after 1989, his 41 sacks were the most ever by a Bengals linebacker and are the third most in team history by any player. Since the NFL did not start recording sacks as an official statistic until 1982, Williams has six seasons with countless sacks not counted by the league.
His 16 interceptions are the most ever by a Bengals linebacker, and it is the eighth most by any Bengal. His two safeties is the most by a Bengals linebacker, and it is tied with Alfred Williams as the most in team history. His 23 fumbles recovered are the most by any Bengals defensive player, and second best in franchise history.
Reggie Williams is certainly the best outside linebacker in Bengals history, but his greatness extends beyond the gridiron. Well noted for his charitable work with kids, Williams has won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, the NFLPA Bryon "Whizzer" White Award for Humanitarian Services, Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, and the Walter Camp Man of the Year Award. He is truly a Cincinnati legend.
Middle Linebacker : Jim LeClair
LeClair was a third round draft pick in 1972 by the Bengals. He spent his first two years on special teams because Bill Bergey was the starter. When Bergey signed a contract with the World Football League after 1973, Cincinnati traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles for two first round drafts picks and a second round draft choice. It also paved the way for LeClair to start.
His first year as starter was met by injury, and he suited up for just eight games. He would not miss another game again until the 1981 season, as he would become a reliable run stuffer on the Bengals defense. Though he was good in pass coverage, LeClair was most noted for his aggressive run stopping and ability to blitz well.
He made his lone Pro Bowl in 1976, but continued to impress opponents with his strength at the point of attack. He was so strong, that he once wrestled a bear to a draw as a promotional stunt for the Army Reserve that he was a member of. When he left the team after the 1983 season to join the USFL New Jersey Generals for two seasons before retiring, his ten interceptions were the most ever by a Bengals middle linebacker. That record still stands. He is also tied with Bergey as the only linebackers in team history to have appeared in a Pro Bowl once.
Though it has been nearly 30 years since Jim LeClair has retired, he is still probably the best middle linebacker the team has ever had. He was very underrated in his era, playing in the shadow of conference rivals Jack Lambert and Willie Lanier, a pair of Hall of Famers. Still, Bengals fans who saw him play know truly how good he was.
Bill Bergey, Carl Zander, Genn Cameron, Brian Simmons, and Steve Tovar deserves mention.
Outside Linebacker : James Francis
Francis was the Bengals first round draft pick in 1990, and they had him start at right outside linebacker immediately. He responded by getting a career high eight sacks, a safety, and returned his lone interception 17 yards for a touchdown. Cincinnati then moved him to the left side in 1991 because their first round pick that year, Alfred Williams, was put in the starting lineup on the right side.
He was solid on the left side, having perhaps one of his best seasons there in 1992. He had six sacks, while setting career best marks of three interceptions for 108 yards. He took one pick back 66 yards for a score. In 1995, he had a career best 104 tackles along with 4.5 sacks, then scored for the last time off of one of his three interceptions in 1996. Cincinnati released him after the 1998 season, so Francis signed with the Washington Redskins and appeared in 10 games as a reserve before retiring.
Though he wasn't always asked to rush the passer, the 33 sacks James Francis had with the Bengals ranks fifth best in team history and is the second most ever by a linebacker. His 11 interceptions is tied with Brian Simmons as the third most by a Bengals linebacker, and his 508 tackles are just two less than Simmons and are the third most in team history.
He was tall, athletic, and versatile. At 6'5" 253, Francis was a load to handle for opponents. He surely is one of the best outside linebackers in team history.
Al Beauchamp, Leon White, Alfred Williams, Takeo Spikes, Bo Harris, and Ricardo McDonald deserves mention
Strong Safety : David Fulcher
Fulcher was third round draft pick by the Bengals in 1986. He started right away, grabbing four interceptions and getting two sacks. He had a career best three sacks in just 11 games the next year, while gaining a reputation as a hard hitting player. The 1988 season was his first as a Pro Bowler, scoring once off of five interceptions. Cincinnati made it to Super Bowl XXIII that year before losing, though Fulcher had a sack and forced a fumble in the game.
His best season may have been in 1989, when he made the Pro Bowl and was named First Team All-Pro after grabbing a career best eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries. He tied a team record by collecting three interceptions in a single game that year, and would duplicate the feat later on that season.
The 1990 season would be his last as a Pro Bowler, as he became the first Bengals defensive back ever to record a safety. After missing four games in 1992 because of injury, he joined the Los Angeles Raiders as a free agent in 1993 but played just three games from injuries that forced him to retire at seasons end.
The 31 interceptions David Fulcher had with the Bengals are the third most in team history, and the most ever by a Cincinnati safety. At 6'3" 236, he was a big safety who was a tremendous force in the gridiron. His combination of size and speed often led to huge hits levied by him, as his 10 forced fumbles show. He three Pro Bowls is the most by a Bengals strong safety, and his one First Team All-Pro nod is tied with Tommy Casanova. He is may be the best strong safety in team history.
Bobby Kemp deserves mention.
Free Safety : Tommy Casanova
The Bengals selected Casanova in the second round of the 1972 draft. He was asked to return punts as well as start at free safety right away. He picked off five passes for 108 yards, while returning a career high 30 punts for 289 yards while scoring once. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1974, then was moved to strong safety and had the best year of his career in 1976.
Besides matching his career high of five picks, returned for a career best 109 yards, he scored twice off of interceptions and once more on a fumble recovery return. He was named First Team All-Pro, as well as to the Pro Bowl. He went back to the Pro Bowl again the next year, then suddenly retired to complete his studies in attaining a medical degree.
Tommy Casanova is still the only free safety in Bengals history to go to the Pro Bowl, and he was first strong safety to do it and be named First Team All-Pro. His 17 career interceptions still ranks seventh best in team history, and it is the second best by a Bengals safety. Though his career ended early, Casanova was a fast player who hit hard and had the propensity for making the big play. He is probably the best safety in team history.
Darryl Williams, Bernard Jackson, and Marvin Cobb deserve mention.
Cornerback : Lemar Parrish
Parrish was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round of the 1970 NFL Draft. He was the 163rd player picked overall that year. In his 1970 rookie season, Parrish had five interceptions, and scored a touchdown on both a punt return and kickoff return. He averaged 30.1 yards per kick return and recovered a fumble. He also scored on a blocked field goal return.
He followed that up next season with seven interceptions. He took one interception 65 yards for a touchdown, and one fumble for a touchdown. In 1972, Parrish picked off five passes and took two for touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. In 1973, he has two interceptions and returned a fumble for a touchdown. In 1974, he recovered a fumble and took it 47 yards for a touchdown. In 1977, Parrish had three interceptions and took one in for the last touchdown of his career.
After the 1977 season, Parrish was traded to the Redskins after a contract dispute. Parrish was traded with defensive end Coy Bacon by the Bengals to Washington for the Redskins’ first-round pick in the 1979 draft. That first-round pick ended up being the 12th overall selection, which Cincinnati used to pick running back Charles Alexander out of Louisiana State.
Though he was not asked to return kicks on the Redskins, Parrish made a immediate impact on the Redskins defense his first year with four interceptions. He had nine interceptions the next year and was named First Team All-Pro for the first time in his career. He followed that up with seven interceptions in 1980, making his eighth and final Pro Bowl. Parrish left the Redskins after 1981, and joined the Buffalo Bills in 1982. He retired after that year.
Parrish is the Bengals all-time leader in touchdowns scored by "return or recovery" with 13. This is still tied third all-time in NFL history with two others. Parrish’s two interceptions returned for scores is still tied for the most in a single game, with many others in NFL history. He was also the only player in franchise history ever to score two "return or recovery" touchdowns in a single game, which he did separate three times.
When he retired, his three fumble returns for touchdowns tied an NFL record. He still fourth all-time in Bengals history for interceptions in a career with 25 of his career total of 47. He is second in touchdowns scored by interception. His four punt returns for touchdowns ranks first in Bengals history, and he is also first in Bengals history with interceptions made in one game, touchdowns returned via interceptions in a season and a single game. He ranks third in franchise history in interception return yardage in a career.
He did not win the 1970 Rookie of the Year Award probably because the Bengals had two players win the award the two previous seasons, even though he had a superior season to the winner, 49ers CB Bruce Taylor. Parrish is a member of the Cincinnati Bengals 40th Anniversary Team. His six Pro Bowls with Cincinnati are the most by any defensive back in team history, and it is tied as the second most overall by any Bengals player.
Lemar Parrish epitomized the definition of "play maker" in his career. He was a shut down cornerback who teams tried to avoid whether he was playing defense or special teams. He teamed with Ken Riley to form, perhaps, the best cornerback duo in the NFL throughout much of the 1970's. Parrish was noted for his ability to stop the run, which is something he had to supply often due to the Bengals porous front seven.
The Bengals often challenged the great Steelers teams of the 1970's, but would come up short. The pass defense was never the reason. While with the Redskins, he also made fellow cornerback Joe Lavender a better player. Lavender made the Pro Bowl twice in his career, the same years that Parrish did.
Lemar Parrish was a complete player. He could do it all. His penchant for taking the ball to the end zone was prodigious. He made his teams better, his teammates better, and now is teaching kids to be better. I find it amazing to see he yet to be inducted into Canton. Recent inductees Emmitt Thomas and Roger Wehrli went in with finally, so hopefully the voters are going to right some long standing wrongs. It would be fitting to see Parrish and Riley inducted together.
Cornerback : Ken Riley
Riley was a sixth round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969. He was the 135th player picked overall. Cincinnati head coach Paul Brown converted Riley, a quarterback in college, to the cornerback in training camp. He responded with four interceptions his rookie year, and returned 14 kickoffs at an average of 23.9 yards per return. Riley also caught the only two passes of his career that year.
Riley recorded 65 interceptions in his career, which was the fourth most in Pro Football history at the time of his retirement. The first three are all in Canton. At present time, he is fifth all-time. Riley languished on some mediocre teams in his era and was never given his due, despite his solid and spectacular efforts.
In his 15 seasons, Riley recorded three or more interceptions in all but three years. In 1976, he snared nine picks, a team record that stood for 30 years, for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also set a team record by intercepting three passes in one game that season. Riley matched that feat again in 1982. In 1983, Riley recorded eight interceptions for two touchdowns. He retired after that season.
His 65 interceptions for 596 yards and five touchdowns are all still Bengals records. He also recovered 18 fumbles in his career, the third most in team history and the most by a Bengals defensive back. He was also as the Bengals’ defensive captain for eight seasons from 1976-83. Not only was he a team leader and shut down defender who rarely missed a game, but Ken Riley is the best cornerback in team history. He should also be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is long, long overdue.
Deltha O'Neal, Louis Breeden, Ashley Ambrose, Torey James, Eric Thomas, Artrell Hawkins, and Lewis Billups deserve mention.
Kicker : Jim Breech
Breech was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the eighth round of the 1978 draft. He did not make the team and sat out the season. He tried out for the Oakland Raiders in 1979, and made the squad. After a year where he scored 95 points, the Raiders cut Breech to sign Chris Bahr, a kicker just released by the Bengals.
As the 1980 season went on, he got two offers to sign with the Bengals and Cleveland Browns. He chose the Bengals because the Browns job was temporary while Browns great Don Cockroft recovered from injury and the Bengals were having issues. The man they drafted to replace Bahr, Sandro Vitiello, did not pan out and Ian Sunter had missed nine field goals so far, despite making two game winning kicks against the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers so far. Breech took over for the final four games of the season.
He held the job for 13 seasons and Cincinnati, and was well know to be automatic from 40-yards and in. Out of 216 career attempts from 40-yards in, he missed just 28 attempts. He scored more than 87 points every season with the Bengals 10 times, with a high of 120 points. In the Bengals Super Bowl season of 1988, Breech led the NFL with a career high 56 extra point conversions out of 59 attempts.
When he retired after the 1992 season, Breech had scored 1,151 points with the Bengals. It is the most in franchise history, and his team record of 186 consecutive games of scoring a point is the second longest in NFL history. He also holds the NFL record by making all nine of the field goals he attempted in overtime. He even attempted the only pass of his career, which went for 12 yards.
The Bengals have had quite a few excellent kickers in their short history. Shayne Graham, now kicking for the Patriots, is the only Bengals kicker to go to the Pro Bowl. Still, there are no kickers in franchise history better than Jim Breech.
Shayne Graham, Horst Muhlmann, the first of just four kickers ever to make a 50-yard field goal in three consecutive games, and Doug Pelfrey deserve mention.
Punter : Pat McInally
McInally was drafted in the fifth round of the 1975 draft by the Bengals. His draft status was effected because he broke his leg in the College All-Star Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was one of the reasons the event was cancelled for good after 1976. McInally also became the only person ever to record a perfect score on the Wonderlic Test, an intelligence test given to rookies just before the draft.
He had to sit out the entire 1975 season because of the broken leg, but he made the team the next year. The 1978 season was one of his best, where he led the NFL with a 43.1 yards per punt average on a career high 91 attempts. What made his achievement even more special was due to the fact Cincinnati liked to use him as an extra wide receiver on obvious passing plays, and he often lined up as a tight end as well.
In the five seasons he was used this way, McInally grabbed 57 passes for 808 yards and five scores. That, coupled by the fact he was an outstanding punter, made him the last of a special breed of player who could excel at such contrasting positions.
His best season was his only Pro Bowl season in 1981, and he was named First Team All-Pro as well. Though only asked to catch six balls that year, he led the NFL with a career best 45.4 average that year. He was never asked to catch another pass after that year, but he continued to excel as a punter until he retired after the strike shortened 1982 season. Later he created the "Starting Lineup" action figures, that are now noted collectible items.
The 700 punts in his Bengals career are still the second most in team history, as is his 29,307 yards. Though his nine blocked punts also rank as the most ever in team history, McInally's career average of 41.9 yards per punt still ranks fifth best and is even more impressive if you factor in his wide receiver duties. Pat McInally may be the best punter in Bengals history.
Dave Lewis, Lee Johnson, Dave Green, Kyle Larson, and Dale Livingston deserve mention.
Kick Returner : Tremain Mack
Mack was drafted in the fourth round of the 1997 draft by Cincinnati. He played just four games as a rookie because of injury, but he started at cornerback. They are the only starts of his career at the position, and he intercepted his only pass that was returned for 29 yards.
When he came back the next season, the Bengals asked him to return kickoffs. He responded by averaging 25.9 on 45 attempts while scoring once. He then followed that up by having his best season in 1999, where he became the only Bengal ever to be named to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner.
Averaging a career high 27.1 yards on a career best 51 returns, he also scored off a 99-yard jaunt. After returning 50 kicks the next season for 1,036 yards, he retired with several team records. He is the only Bengal to score twice off kick returns, his 27.1 return average is a single-season record by anyone with 17 or more attempts, and he still has the most kickoff return attempts and yards in team history.
In his short time, "T-Mack" proved himself to be maybe the best kickoff return specialist in team history.
Stanford Jennings, Tab Perry, Glenn Holt, Brandon Bennett, Eric Ball, Bernard Jackson, David Dunn, Eric Bieniemy, Willie Shelby, and Lemar Parrish deserve mention.
Punt Returner : Lemar Parrish
Lemar Parrish was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round of the 1970 NFL Draft. He was the 163rd player picked overall that year. In his rookie season, Parrish was incredible. He averaged 30.1 yards per kick return and scored once off of 23 punt returns. He was named to the Pro Bowl that season and the next. He scored again off another punt return in 1972. In 1974, Parrish set a still standing Bengals record with an NFL-leading 18.8 yards per punt return average. He also scored two touchdowns on punt returns while making his third Pro Bowl. One went for 90 yards and is presently the second longest in Bengals history.
He would go to the Pro Bowl three more times with the Bengals, but had his return duties greatly reduced. After the 1977 season, Parrish was traded, after a contract dispute, with defensive end Coy Bacon to Washington for the Redskins’ first-round pick in the 1979 draft. Parrish made a immediate impact on the Redskins defense his first year with four interceptions. The next year, he had 9 interceptions. He followed that up with seven swipes in 1980. Parrish left the Redskins after 1981, and joined the Buffalo Bills in 1982. He retired after that year.
The four touchdowns Parrish had with the Bengals is still a team record, and the 1,201 yards he gained still ranks as the second most. He also averaged a franchise best 24.7 yards off of 61 kickoff returns, including a score, for any Bengal with more than 50 returns. He ranks second in team history with 130 punt returns.
Lemar Parrish is a member of the Cincinnati Bengals 40th Anniversary Team and epitomized the definition of "play maker" in his career. He was the type who would make the opponents cringe when he was asked to return kicks.
Peter Warrick, Mike Martin, Corey Sawyer, Craig Yeast, Keiwan Ratliff, Carl Pickens, Tommy Casanova, and Mitchell Price deserve mention.