Welcome to a new era of Cincinnati Bengals football. Andy Dalton has moved on after his nine years under center— while somewhat successful, it netted the team zero playoff wins. The team happened to have their grand collapse at the right time, though.
Joe Burrow, the kid from The Plains of Ohio who grew up just over an hour away from the city the Bengals call home. A kid who grew up a fan LeBron James, a fellow son of the Buckeye State who breathed life into a local, struggling franchise after they drafted him first overall, and eventually led them to their first ever title. Burrow was nabbed by the Bengals with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, and now has a chance to write a similar legacy to that of James.
The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we are starting at the bottom.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow is the greatest college quarterback of all time. He set all-time records in his final year at LSU, and it was not due to empty stats either. The Tigers were regularly facing off against college football’s top teams in the SEC West, and Burrow beat down everyone so badly it was almost boring to watch at one point. He was so good it almost killed all of the excitement around the college football season.
The Heisman-winning quarterback has the raw talent needed to succeed, and he showed in 2019 that he had finally put together much of the mental parts of playing quarterback as well. Playing at the NFL level is obviously a whole other level, but there is not really much from his 2019 season that raises any more concern then your average rookie quarterback.
The problem with the Bengals, even if Burrow proves to be a star in year one, is the team around him. The offensive line still has many issues, though the addition of 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams — who missed his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury — at left tackle should help. Wide receiver A.J. Green is still a great player, but has clearly regressed with age and will be coming off of a missed 2019 season. Rookie receiver Tee Higgins is exciting, but may not be ready to be a real contributor in year one.
Running back Joe Mixon will likely be the center of the offense in 2020. The running back has proven to be a star over the past two years, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in consecutive years.
Tyler Boyd should be able to contribute of offense as well. The receiver has now put together back to back 1,000-yard seasons after a rough start to his NFL career. He earned himself a big extension last offseason, but it is still unsure as to whether or not he can be a WR1 on a playoff contending team.
On offense, the team has a few decent pieces that may work out. There is not much going on for the defense.
Star defensive tackle Geno Atkins has slowly regressed over the years, and one has to wonder how much he has left in the tank. Big money nose tackle D.J. Reader may be great at stuffing the run, but not much else. Edge defender Sam Hubbard had some big games in 2019, but also had a penchant for just disappearing at times.
Cincinnati also decided that adding Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander — formerly of the Minnesota Vikings bad secondary — was a good idea. The other starting corner, William Jackson, took a step back in 2019 after bursting onto the scene late in 2018.
This defense is going to get smoked in 2020. They will almost certainly be among the worst in the NFL unless a few players make enormous, unexpected leaps.
The Bengals have a few pieces. They have the most exciting quarterback prospect in the league. They also lack any sort of real star power on the roster, and do not look like a team that is quite ready to compete yet on paper. Following them throughout the year may be fun, but do not expect many wins for Burrow in his rookie season.