The Cincinnati Bengals are entering a year where it is Super Bowl or bust. Cincinnati has been right on the precipice for the last two seasons, and now they will look to get over the hump. Two seasons ago, Cincinnati suffered a hard-fought loss in the Super Bowl to the Los Angeles Rams and followed that up with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship last year.
A team full of destiny, and a team full of guys who are trying to prove the doubters wrong. Here are three Bengals to keep an eye on who will prove the fans wrong in 2023 with the expectations the highest they've ever been.
3. Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon is a fan favorite, but that doesn't change the fact that a good chunk of the fanbase and media were calling for him to be cut from the roster entering this season. It's understandable after having a career-low season like he did last year, but we cannot forget the fact that he is less than two years removed from a career-best season with Cincinnati, and I do not believe that version of Mixon is gone just yet.
Mixon is still just 27 years of age, and in 2021 he had a career-high in rushing yards with 1,205, averaging over four yards per carry. He also scored 13 touchdowns, which was the most in a single season of his pro career to this point.
Recency bias is a true thing, and it makes sense, but Mixon is still the heart and soul of his team and will set his sights on a bounce-back year proving the doubters wrong.
2. Daxton Hill
This is an instrumental season for the second-year player out of Michigan. Daxton Hill spent most of his rookie season as a backup safety, special teamer, and an occasional box coverage man in specific schemes and rotational snaps.
Dax Hill will take a massive leap forward into the lead guy at the safety position alongside newcomer Nick Scott or rookie Jordan Battle. Hill was drafted in the first round by the Bengals, so the expectations are there. Fans aren't necessarily doubting him, but the loss of Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell has left a lot of people wary, and Hill will quiet those concerns very quickly.
Hill is a hard-nosed safety who has a lot of playmaking ability and he has good eyes in coverage, he attacks the football, and he has an extremely high IQ, and that goes a long way when you are the last line of defense for the unit. Lou Anarumo can utilize him in many facets, which is why I feel he will be such a key factor for the defense. However, only time will tell.
1. Jonah Williams
Jonah Williams is one of the most controversial players the Bengals have this season, and the expectation is that this could be his final season in Cincinnati. Williams has been productive in certain instances but hasn't lived up to the early first-round selection that Cincinnati used to get him.
Williams had a very back-and-forth offseason. Cincinnati made a move to get Orlando Brown Jr. and then the idea was that Williams would move to right tackle. Well, Williams didn't love that idea, and he ultimately requested a trade.
After Cincinnati elected to not move him, Williams chose to return to the team and buy into the transition. Now he will enter the season as the Bengals' new right tackle with a lot to prove to the fanbase who was in favor of trading him.
This will be the biggest season of his career for two reasons. For one, it is his first year at right tackle, which is a new position for him.
Secondly, it is a contract year, and he will be entering his first-ever free agency in 2024, and he will need to perform to get paid the way he desires. Although, there has been some very positive news out of training camp from head coach Zac Taylor, who has raved about Williams looking like a pro at his new position.