This 2023 Cincinnati Bengals season has been full of ups and downs and while it seems grim right now, there are three players who have been a huge part of the team's ups during the season.
Now, of course, I need to address the elephant in the room. So many fans were so happy when Joe Burrow threw a touchdown pass to Joe Mixon during the Ravens game that made it look like the Bengals offense had figured something out.
Unfortunately, the Who Dey Nation's hearts sank when they saw Burrow in immense pain and later was deemed out for the year with a torn ligament in his wrist. After Burrow got his mobility back and the team started to look like they were on the right track, this is just heartbreaking. It seems like hopes and dreams for this season are dashed, however, the Bengals are down but are not out yet.
No one should be surprised to see any of these players listed here and of course, arguments could be made for other players. These three, however, have stood above the rest and should be major contributors for this team for a long time.
Taylor-Britt is definitely worth mentioning since he is having a great season so far. His stats speak for themselves, as he has 36 solo tackles so far, and even a forced fumble but perhaps what's most impressive so far this season are his four interceptions (Week 5, Week 6, Week 9, Week 10). He also has a PFF coverage grade of 65.8 and is trending toward becoming a lockdown corner.
Also according to PFF (prior to Thursday night's game), Taylor-Britt had been dominant in coverage. He had allowed just 15 receptions off 29 targets while picking off four passes and forcing three incompletions.
In Week 10, Taylor-Britt had a key interception when the game didn't look so good in the fourth quarter. This led to a Joe Mixon touchdown, making it a three-point game. This is what we were all waiting for from a Bengals player and Taylor-Britt stepped up and didn't allow the defense to break.
Taylor-Britt may only have two years of experience, but he surely has the confidence and talent needed to succeed for years to come, and lucky for us, the season is far from over.
Trenton Irwin has had quite a season in 2023. He has been the team's punt returner, and one of the starting wide receivers due to Tee Higgins' hamstring injury. As of this writing, Irwin has 16 catches, 191 yards, and a touchdown.
Irwin does have some pretty impressive moments this season already, and one of which would be catching a 32-yard pass from Burrow, and this turned into his first touchdown of the year in Week 10 against the Texans. Another standout in that same game would be when Irwin had a critical catch after a deep throw by Burrow in the fourth quarter, which put the Bengals in Texans territory.
Something to make note of is how Irwin and backup quarterback Jake Browning were able to connect from the beginning during the Ravens game. Browning's first throw of the game was a completion to Irwin, and that connection was maintained for the rest of the night. In no way is this a Burrow-Chase level connection, but with Burrow out, it shows that Browning and Irwin have potential to make big plays together moving forward.
While the season didn't exactly begin like Ja'Marr Chase would have liked, his 2023 stats are now moving in the right direction. He has been shining more and more each game, and he's also a reason why the Cincinnati Bengals are looking more and more like the Cincinnati Bengals.
While his first touchdown this season came in Week 5, he has been nothing but incredible since. Chase's critical catch at 4th & 1 in the second quarter of the Buffalo Bills game was just one example of his talents.
The outcome of the Texans game was not what we would have liked, but Chase still had a great game himself. Chase's critical 64-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was able to close the score gap, as he was able to give the team and fans hope after all. Currently, Chase has 71 catches and 833 yards, along with six touchdowns.
Chase also stepped up and tried to be a big-time playmaker for Jake Browning when the backup quarterback entered the game for Burrow. He would have had an incredible catch but it was out of bounds, unfortunately. He finished the game with a touchdown too, Browning's first in the NFL.
The AFC North is competitive this year, so these three (and everyone really) need to keep excelling. Things may not look great right now, but honestly, you never know what could happen next week or the week after when it comes to these players.