Coming off an aggressive free agency period and equipped with the first overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals have the potential to turn heads in 2020.
The last time the Cincinnati Bengals took the field, they locked down the number one pick and the record depicting the worst NFL team in 2019. The 2020 Bengals however, do not have the roster or circumstance of a team at the bottom of the pile.
The record last year was negatively skewed by Zac Taylor deploying Ryan Finley in a number of imminently winnable games. As the contests played out, it appeared obvious that with Dalton under center a number of Ls could have been Ws. Cincy also had a dreadful record in close contests, finishing the year 0-8 in one-score games. This showed that the Bengals were consistently competitive and, therefore it is very much possible to improve drastically more quickly.
There is no longer a league-wide consensus that quarterbacks need significant time to develop before succeeding. Burrow’s ability to turn broken plays into successes supports the belief held by some that he has the ability to take the league by storm as soon as year one. The significant unknowns that surround the rest of the offseason are an obstacle, however, with the potential to stand in the way of a smooth transition into Bengaldom schematically for Burrow.
Burrow will also have an abnormal amount of talented weapons for a rookie QB. With A.J. Green returning via the franchise tag, Tyler Boyd establishing himself last year as a solid starter and a strong field stretcher in John Ross, there are a lot of mouths to feed if all stay healthy. In addition, there is the potential for a strong running game with Joe Mixon being hailed by Bill Belichick as “The best back in the league”,
The most obvious weakness of the 2019 offensive roster was the O-Line. The Bengals have many scouts’ favourite 2019 prospect in Jonah Williams to plug in at Left Tackle, essentially adding another first-round rookie to the roster. The interior, however, still looks to require improvement despite Trey Hopkins’ break out at the back end of last season. Additionally, with 2020 looking like a highly talented draft class, there will almost certainly be players at positions of need with first-round talent still on the board at 33.
Free agency has been mentioned as a factor overlooked by the franchise for years. The Bengals attacked the national reputation this year, however, landing multiple strong defensive free agents to improve upon an area that evidently needed it. D.J. Reader provides a true blue-chip presence to accompany Atkins on the D-Line and the secondary is bolstered by the additions of Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, and Vonn Bell.
The Bengals’ abundance of draft capital, significant underachieving in 2019 and exciting free agency spending pave a platform of optimism for the year ahead. If the season goes ahead as planned, Bengals fans have more than enough reason to have high expectations for 2020.