The defending AFC champions addressed their most significant concern in the Offensive Line. But Will That Be Enough To Repeat As Super Bowl Contenders?
Training camp starts on Wednesday, July 27th, and the Bengals appear ready to go for a new season of football after investing in their offensive line to keep franchise quarterback Joe Burrow upright. Only one spot in the starting lineup looks up for grabs, which is at left guard, and the only new face at the skill positions is journeyman tight end, Hayden Hurst. The rest of the core remains the same, with a trio of wide receivers among the very best in the league and Joe Mixon at running back, coming off his most productive season as a pro.
Burrow is atop of any list of young superstars in the league, but the depth behind him is very suspect. Brandon Allen, who’s been with the team since 2020 and already replaced Burrow when he went down, is a lock to make the roster the backup quarterback. His leading talent is that he knows the system, and the upside is extremely limited regardless of the talent around him. The Bengals could have added a veteran instead that offered more certainty in case Burrow misses any time. The other quarterback in camp is Jake Browning, who spent the 2021 in their practice squad and has yet to attempt a pass in the NFL.
As mentioned above, Mixon is one of the leaders in Cincy and a true workhorse after registering 334 touches last year in the regular season alone. Old college teammate Samaje Perine is now the number two and the designated third-down back. Coach Zac Taylor likes his pass block and he has produced in limited time both as a runner and pass catcher during these past two seasons. Chris Evans, selected in the sixth-round of the 2021 Draft, is an intriguing talent and if he can improve as a protector he might have a good shot of suplanting Perine as the primary backup.
Trayveon Williams, a 2019 draftee, showed some promise two years ago in a lost season but faces an uphill battle to earn a spot on the roster and will probably be headed to the practice squad unless somebody gets injured.
The group is headlined by the three-headed monster of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, without a doubt one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the entire league. The Bengals though, use a lot 11 personnel, which makes the fourth and fifth receiver a somewhat important role, as if any of those three were to miss time, they would be expected to be heavily involved.
Right now the number four is Mike Thomas, a coach Taylor favorite from his time with the Rams and a great special teamer. He’s a lock to make the team because of that alone. The Bengals also like Stanley Morgan Jr., a 2019 UDFA who is a mainstay in special teams as well.
They could use more juice behind these five and even add a veteran with more upside as a pass catcher than Thomas so they could rotate their star trio a bit more.
With former captain C.J. Uzomah gone after signing with the Jets in free agency, the Bengals brought in a very capable receiver for the position in Hurst. The former first-round selection of the Ravens comes to Cincy after losing his job in Atlanta, but not because of lack of production. On the contrary, he could be a breakout candidate for the team this season. Drew Sample is entering the final year of his rookie contract but the team likes having his blocking in the toolbox and he might stick around.
The Bengals play a lot of three-wide receiver sets, but they’ll probably carry three tight ends on the roster regardless. Mitchell Wilcox‘s spot seems secure given his importance on special teams, but Randy Moss’ son, Thaddeus, is a sneaky candidate despite his lack of size (6-2 and not extremely athletic).
After many years of struggling to put together a convincing line, the Bengals finally got it right (on paper) in 2022. Free agent acquisitions Ted Karras, La’el Collins, and Alex Cappa join former first-round pick Jonah Williams to turn a fatal flaw into a possible strength for the team. Of course, many things could go wrong from the start of camp until the regular season, but this is clearly the best line the team has had ever since Andrew Withworth and company left Cincinnati.
The primary position battle in camp will take place at left guard. Most experts seem to think second-year Jackson Carman will be the starter, despite his disappointing 2021 season and the off the field concerns. Rookie Cordell Volson, selected in the fourth-round out of North Dakota State, is his main competitor. The unit is extremely thin though, and the guys rounding up the group are underwhelming, like Hakeem Adeniji or Isaiah Prince.