More than any other team the Bengals need to ace this draft. Huge draft misses like Ogbuehi and Price set the team back years. Drafted players look good, in a vacuum, until they go up against All-pros. This year the Ravens, Steelers, and Browns all looked to have fine drafts. Since the Bengals were 2-14 last year, they can’t tread water, they have to step forward and excel in their roster, coaching, and play. They have to be better than their divisional opponents. A very tall order. The Bengals participation in free agency this past winter helps tip the scales somewhat. Their deficiency in this area also created a steep uphill climb last several years. They needed bodies and talent and with free agents Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell, Xavier Su’a-Filo, and others some holes have been filled. Normally I couldn’t see this, but this year it’s realistic for the Bengals (if they have decided to try to win) to add additional free agent help, even off the waiver wires. There must be enough talent to withstand the many injuries every team suffers. Bengal fans are tired of supporting sub-par NFL players and guys that don’t belong in the league, and proved they won’t do that.
Enter not only a good looking draft with no apparent critical mistakes, but a number one pick in QB Joe Burrow as well. This will create immediate excitement and fan interest, even causal fans will want to see possible greatness in Burrow.
Adding to the Bengals roster are returning injured players A.J. Green, a Hall of Famer, and last year’s first-round pick Jonah Williams. Also add Tee Martin, who is big and versatile and with Boyd and Green could be dangerous. It will be critical for them to be productive. First-year linemen usually struggle, but it’s important to keep Burrow upright and clean to get the ball downfield.
The Bengals showed Joe Mixon he fits into their long term plans by not signing a potential replacement. See Packers, Green Bay. With better blocking and improved passing game, this could be Mixon’sbreakout year. They can’t afford to keep Dalton as a backup, although if he’s in the mood he could be a mentor and coach and backup to Burrow. I don’t want Dalton doing any of that. Neither does Zac Taylor. He’s gone. One of the many deficiencies of last year’s team was the overall play of the linebackers. Their inability to cover, their inept tackling, lack of rush, and overall speed was one reason better teams blew the Bengals out. The two linebackers taken in the draft, Logan Wilson from Univ. of Wyoming and Akeem Davis-Gaither from Appalachian State fill some need, but my worry is the small school players may not excel with the big boys week after week.
With sports-starved fans watching the NFL draft in record numbers, and other sports in limbo, this could be a banner year for interest in football. The Bengals will have every opportunity to create excitement and win some of their fans back. Again, my biggest question is how well we compete against division rivals. This is where coaching will be so important. It’s a must that game plans put our guys into positions to be successful. And take opponents out of what they do best. A slow start will put Taylor on the hot seat. A great quarterback can change the dynamic, give everybody confidence, spread the ball around. Can Burrow carry this team? Rookie quarterbacks usually can’t. And it’s not fair to expect Burrow to overcome the mistakes of the franchise these past years. So, do we expect miracles? That really just doesn’t make sense. But so far I’ll give the Bengals at least some credit for looking like an NFL team this offseason. And providing a much-needed diversion to the pandemic for Cincinnati sports fan