Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow can’t do everything on offense

Bengals, Joe Burrow Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Bengals, Joe Burrow Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports /

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow lived up to the hype that comes with being the top overall draft pick as a rookie. He posted a quarterback rating near 90 and tossed 13 touchdowns to just five interceptions in 10 games prior to his season-ending knee injury.

Even coming off a major injury, Burrow is still the best thing the Bengals franchise has going for it. The offense obviously needs to revolve around him. Cincinnati’s decision-makers understand this. That’s why they added a talent like fifth overall pick Ja’Marr Chase to an offense that already has Burrow, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon, and Tyler Boyd.

The offense has plenty of weapons now after already having a sufficient arsenal in 2020. However, the elephant in the room for the Bengals is the offensive line. Former Vikings team captain Riley Reiff enters the fold at right tackle and incoming rookie Jackson Carman will have the opportunity to take the right guard job and run with it.

That duo will serve as the primary reinforcements for a Bengals offensive line that plays no small part in the fact that Burrow is rehabbing a major knee injury right now. Burrow was still amongst the league leaders in quarterback hits despite only playing in 10 games last year.

Here is where the Bengals’ 2021 season will be made or broken.

How much passing is too much for the Cincinnati Bengals?

The additions of Reiff and Carman will make the offensive line better. Still, it is hard to imagine Cincinnati’s offensive line going from a major liability to a strength in one offseason with the moves they made.

A large part of Cincinnati’s issue last year was Burrow averaging just over 40 pass attempts per game.

Yes, the NFL is a passing league.

Yes, Burrow is an outstanding passer.

Yes, the fortunes of the Bengals franchise rest on Burrow’s arm.

But when a quarterback drops back 40 times per game behind a shaky offensive line, he is going to get hurt bad. That is exactly what happened to Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback.

When a team doesn’t even make an honest attempt at balance via running the ball, it becomes easier for the defense to tee off on the quarterback, especially when the quarterback is poorly protected.

Even with the weapons on offense and an offensive line that will be improved, if Burrow is throwing 40 times every Sunday, he will get hurt again this year. He is only human. Simply put, Burrow should and will be the center of the Bengals offense in 2021. However, he cannot be the entire offense.

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It is not like handing off to Joe Mixon is a bad option for the Bengals, as Mixon has two seasons of 1,100+ rushing yards to his name. His best season came running behind a Frank Pollack-coached offensive line in 2018. He will have that same opportunity in 2021.

The sooner that head coach and play caller Zac Taylor realizes the contents of the previous paragraph, the sooner the Bengals can become a viable franchise again.