3 Bengals players who will take a big step forward in 2023
2. Joseph Ossai
The start of Ossai's career hasn't been pretty, to say the least. His entire rookie year was immediately cut short in just the preseason when he injured his knee, which ended up requiring surgery and sidelined him for the entire 2021 season.
Then, in his sophomore year, he finally got his chance. Although his role was mostly as a rotational edge and not a solidified starter, Ossai flashed a lot of brilliance and potential, including a clutch sack against the Chiefs in their regular season matchup and a fumble recovery in the end zone against the Ravens in the last week of the season, which showed great awareness on his part.
Unfortunately, we all know how that season ended. An admittedly bone-headed mistake on Ossai's part contributed to a heart-crushing loss in the AFC Championship Game. Kansas City gets their revenge and advances to win their second Lombardi in four years. Season's over.
While placing the blame entirely on Ossai's shoulders is unfair (seriously, the offense was stagnant most of the game and that punt return before the penalty was truly the nail in the coffin), it is what people remember and are going to remember from an otherwise promising second year until Joseph Ossai makes people forget about it.
And, I might be jumping the gun, but I believe he'll accomplish that this season.
As I said above, Ossai had some really impressive and promising moments in his second year, even with limited snaps. 3.5 sacks, two tackles-for-loss on top of that, and a pair of fumble recoveries (one being for six) is not anything to scoff at, especially considering he was playing behind Hendrickson and Hubbard most of the season.
Even in that game against Kansas City at Arrowhead, the former Longhorn, to quote veteran B.J. Hill, "played his butt off the whole game" and was one of the better pieces on defense that night.
Ossai has a lot to prove this season, especially with how the playoff run ended, and he'll elevate his game in response and get more playing time this season.