The NFL season is slowly approaching and today we’ll take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ pass rush needed a boost; especially when it turned out that Carl Lawson was leaving for the New York Jets. The release of Geno Atkins, an eight-time Pro Bowler and still a free agent, came after questions raised about his shoulder injury. They also said goodbye to two wide receivers; each in a different condition. AJ Green suffered a lot of injuries last year and did not reach his normal level anymore, which allowed him to make a new start with the Bengals in Arizona after a Hall of Fame-worthy career. John Ross is no longer a Bengal either. He did not live up to his high draft pick status at all and left like a bust. Cornerback William Jackson III left to sign a hefty contract with Washington and did not hesitate to kick after.
With Trey Hendrickson, the sack leader of the NFC was recruited in 2020. The defensive end was given a four-year contract for $60 million. In addition to the D-line, the O-line also received a boost. The arrival of Riley Reiff means an experienced RT to protect Burrow. Chidobe Awuzie, Larry Ogunjobi and Mike Hilton are especially experienced depth transfers.
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The Bengals were able to pick high again in the last draft in 2020 due to the injury of Joe Burrow. Instead of opting for offensive tackle Penei Sewell, the Bengals drew WR Ja’Marr Chase’s card. He didn’t play in college during the corona season, but the year before Chase formed a deadly duo with Burrow at LSU. So the choice for him was made primarily with Burrow’s attack in mind rather than his health. In the second round, Jackson Carman got a tackle. In the third round, the Bengals were able to pick up linebacker Joseph Ossai. Ossai resembles Carl Lawson in posture and style of play, which the Bengals lost to the Jets moments later.
Joe Burrow is ready to start again for the Bengals from round one. The big question remains how upright he can stay, as he took his place behind a holey cheese of an offensive line last year. Riley Reiff and Jackson Carman must provide the necessary security, but that is only on paper at the moment. Reiff is an upgrade on right tackle while Carman will play guard. That the choice did not go to Sewell was a choice of confidence in Jonah Williams.
The offense has had to do without AJ Green for the first time in long years, but with Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals basically took an absolute whopper as a replacement. With Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, Burrow has three excellent receivers in front of him. Add to that Joe Mixon, a versatile running back, and you can see why, for the first time in years, there is real excitement about the attack in Cincy. Drew Sample and CJ Uzomah are not world TEs, but they are reliable enough.
In training camp there are only positive notes about the defense for now: LB Germaine Pratt was able to knock Burrow to the ground and SS Jessie Bates III wrested the ball from Chase on day two. The defense was also heavily built as five new names – Trae Waynes was injured all season last year – are expected at kick-off.
The pass rush came up short last year; also with Lawson in the lineup. Hendrickson was a rare big money move from the Bengals, so they absolutely believe Hendrickson can repeat his 2020 season with them in Lawson’s place. Atkins was replaced by a younger Ogunjobi, but he was unable to convince in Cleveland. In Cincy, they hope Sam Hubbard can make a step forward despite regressing to just two sacks in 2020. Ossai proved a steal in the third round. He started out as a linebacker in Texas, but will mainly be played as an edge rusher in the National Football League (NFL). Expectations around linebacker Germaine Pratt are also high. He already knows a remarkable training camp.
With Jackson and Mackensie Alexander, the Bengals had a good secondary last year, but the duo was exchanged for Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie. Hilton is an absolute upgrade in the slot in any case, but the Cincinnati Bengals got a third cornerback with Trae Waynes (injured last season) who has never played a snap for this team. Jessie Bates isn’t a big name, but the safety was a second-team All-Pro and had 15 pass-breakups and interceptions combined. The highest number in the NFL from last year. Bates is also in a contract year, so pay attention.
The Cincinnati Bengals have taken a step forward towards 2021 anyway. For the first time in many years, enthusiasm has been made about the offense and also in the defense. However, the biggest problem is not with Cincy, but with the division. The AFC North supplied three teams in the playoffs last season. None of those teams seem to have come out of the offseason very weakened. The places are therefore very expensive. The year 2021 should be seen as a springboard to a future with Burrow as a superstar.