Two main areas of concern for the Cincinnati Bengals will be put to an immediate test against the Los Angeles Chargers.
It is always difficult to not overreact to the things we see each week during the NFL season. However, the Chargers are a perfect opening week opponent to examine just how much the Cincinnati Bengals have improved some key weaknesses on their roster.
Will the offensive line hold up?
This is a concern for many teams around the NFL, not just the Bengals. However, Cincinnati has to deal with the pass-rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram right off the bat. Bosa has three double-digit sack seasons and Ingram has two. They racked up 18.5 sacks between the two of them last year alone.
The Bengals are betting big on last year’s first-round pick, Jonah Williams, to stabilize the entire offensive line. He missed his entire rookie season due to injury. He will now protect Joe Burrow’s blindside.
Bosa and Ingram will provide a stern test for the entire group upfront. If they can be contained, it bodes well for the game on September 13th and the rest of Cincinnati’s season. If the duo spends a lot of time in the Bengals’ backfield, Burrow may not remain healthy for all 16 games.
Will the linebackers be better in coverage?
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler caught 92 passes last year. Much of any running back’s receiving damage is done against opposing linebackers in coverage. The Bengals’ linebacker group has been bad for a while and the struggles continued last year.
The unit has simply lacked speed and athleticism for far too long. Former Raven Josh Bynes and a trio of rookies are the latest possible solutions to the problem. Holdovers like Germaine Pratt must improve too. Trying to keep up with Ekeler and avoiding getting shredded one check down at a time will be a huge measuring stick for the entire position group.
Keep in mind, Ekeler is a smaller, shifty type of runner who can hide behind blockers. This means that not only will the linebackers be tested in the passing game, but their tracking and tackling ability as well. Missed tackles have also been an issue in recent years.
While it is just a single game, the week 1 matchup with the Bolts is uniquely equipped to determine whether or not the Bengals are indeed headed in the right direction.