As the Cincinnati Bengals continue further into training camp, the coaching staff and front office must make it a priority to get answers to the following questions.
On the surface, the Cincinnati Bengals should have relatively few question marks heading into the 2022 campaign especially considering the reigning AFC champions return nearly every starter from their Super Bowl run.
Dive a little deeper, however, and there are a number of situations the orange and black faithful should be keeping an eye on. It is the NFL, after all, and even the most successful franchises must deal with instability year over year.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Jessie Bates III. After the Bengals’ front office and the stellar safety failed to reach a long-term contract agreement, the franchise tag extended to Bates remains unsigned as of this time. This puts the Wake Forest alum under no obligation to report to camp, leaving the defense without one of, if not the most, important members of the unit.
The trickle-down impact of Bates’ absence cannot be understated. How does the locker room fair without him? How does the Bengals’ inability to get a deal done impact how free agents view Cincinnati? How can the club attempt to replace his playmaking ability?
All are intriguing questions that Zac Taylor and his coaching staff should get answers to soon enough. But for the sake of this article, we’ll take a look at some of the questions that aren’t getting so much media attention.
Who is the WR4 in the offense?
In the eyes of many, the Cincinnati Bengals possess the strongest wide receiver room in the entire league. However, even the most elite units can have question marks surrounding them. In this case, the uncertainty revolves around the depth of the position room.
Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan left no doubt that he wants the club’s top trio of pass catchers, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, to take the lion’s share of snaps.
Anybody who watched the Bengals a year ago would come to the same conclusion. But what if an injury occurs? Is there a receiver on the team capable of manning a position should one of the big three fall to injury for an extended period?
At this point in time, it’s difficult to say with certainty there is a receiver that could fit that description. Stanley Morgan is a model teammate and tremendous blocker, but he hasn’t proven he can consistently get open on the outside. Michael Thomas is extremely familiar with Zac Taylor’s scheme and a special teams ace, but it’s difficult to project him into that role either.
Undrafted free agent WR Kwamie Lassiter has been turning heads so far this offseason. If he continues his strong showing, perhaps he earns enough trust from the coaching staff to be WR4. If not, there’s a good chance the front office will have to turn to the free agent market or play the patience game in the hopes that another team will cut a receiver capable of providing the depth they need.