3 breakout candidates for the Bengals’ 2020 offense

Mike Jordan, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Mike Jordan, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals, Drew Sample (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Bengals’ breakout candidates: Drew Sample, Tight End

When the Bengals selected Washington tight end Drew Sample with their 2019 second round pick, many fans were left scratching their heads. Not many had heard of Sample, and those who had expected him to be a fourth round pick at best. However, regardless of public opinion over the pick, it’s clear that Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati coaching staff have high expectations for the tight end.

In college, Sample’s primary strength was his blocking. Considered by many to be the top blocking tight end in the 2019 draft, the Bengals’ selection of the Washington product signaled the importance the front office and coaching staff had placed on blocking. While he didn’t get a chance to show his prowess as a blocker in a rookie year that was cut short by injury, he’s expected to make an immediate impact there in 2020.

This is crucial for the Bengals, who are likely to have struggles with their offensive line. If Sample can be the blocker he is hyped up to be, he could substantially help hide the line’s weaknesses. This could have an impact in both the running game and passing game; opening up lanes for Joe Mixon to gain yards on the ground and giving Joe Burrow extra time to pass the ball.

The blocking ability is there, but Sample’s impact as a receiver is a question mark. In four years with the Huskies, he had just 46 receptions for 487 yards and 5 TDs. These numbers wouldn’t be eye popping for a single season, let alone a four year career.

However, despite limited targets in the Washington offense, Sample was reliable when he got looks. According to Pro Football Focus, of all the PAC-12 tight ends with at least 25 targets in 2019, he was the only one with a drop rate of 0.0%. He may not have gotten thrown to often in college, but his hands were certainly reliable.

In 2020, the Bengals’ offense likely won’t ask much of Sample in the passing game. With a loaded group of wide receivers and multiple running backs with receiving skills, there aren’t many targets to go around. However, if Sample can be the blocker he’s expected to be and have reliable hands like in college, he can be a valuable piece on offense, regardless of his volume in the passing game.