No. 2 WR -- Mohamed Sanu vs. Brandon Tate vs. Armon Binns. Rarely will a major position battle involve three players who didn't have an NFL reception the previous season, but such is the case for the Bengals' No. 2 WR spot beyond A.J. Green. Tate didn't pick up the system enough for the coaches to insert him into the rotation last year, but he made strides this offseason and impressed at OTAs. He'll open camp as the starter. Coaches inside the Bengals organization think Binns, who spent 2011 on the practice squad, played better in practice than anyone not named Green last season. Cincinnati drafted Sanu in the third round and expects him to contribute. He owns the best football instincts of the three and knows how find open spots, but he could also move inside to play more slot. Who will emerge as the starter remains unknown, but expectations are that all three will eventually see time on the edge.
Safety -- Taylor Mays vs. George Illoka. Mays gradually earned playing time as last season progressed, but the coaches didn't trust him enough to play regularly. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer bemoaned Mays' inconsistency but believes he may be turning the corner. When running the right direction, Mays represents one of the greatest athletes at the position and why he was drafted in the second round out of USC by San Francisco. Pushing him is George Illoka, a fifth-round pick out of Boise State (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) who made plays all over the field in OTAs. He fits the tall, fast profile Zimmer covets. Despite the lack of experience at safety, Zimmer said: “I’m not nervous about it at this point in time. I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.”
Punt returner -- Adam Jones vs. Brandon Tate vs. Andrew Hawkins. Entering camp, the edge goes to Jones. Neither Tate nor Hawkins own Jones' athleticism. Marvin Lewis desires a threat every time he touches the ball, and Jones provides exactly that. Hamstring and groin injuries set Jones back last year, but he returned two punts -- one went for 63 yards. Tate held the job much of last year and came under fire for poor decision-making, particularly on deep punts. He did, however, finish 12th in the NFL in average yards per return (10.6), and he returned one for a touchdown. Hawkins will be the wild card because his experience is limited, but he showcased small-space quickness that makes him a perfect fit as a returner. The high stakes of this position battle is whoever doesn't win the job will be placed squarely on the chopping block to not make the team all together.
Follow Bengals reporter Paul Dehner on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLCIN.