For the eternal Cincinnati Bengals’ optimist, one could employ the mindset that the team is poised to add immediate, high-impact rookies in 2020 to jumpstart a necessary rebuild. Quarterback is on the docket and with numerous promising prospects, along with a No. 1 overall pick in sight, the team will have the veritable pick of the litter.
However, the plethora of available franchise-changers took a hit when Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa went down with a dislocated hip last Saturday. While an early prognosis has him potentially being ready by the next NFL regular season, a team will be rolling the dice on a possible redshirt rookie year.
There are other alleys for Tagovailoa to traverse, in terms of starting his NFL career outside of the traditional April festivities. As we recently relayed, the Supplemental Draft may be an option for the southpaw to mull over, as he continues his rehab throughout the spring.
In terms of on-field skill sets, Tagovailoa checks most, if not all of the boxes. He can navigate the pocket well, create plays and throws the intermediate and deep passes with high accuracy.
Unfortunately, this and other body dings will give teams at the top of the draft a lot to think about in five months’ time. The Cincinnati Bengals are one of those teams.
While Tagovailoa may very well end up becoming the best quarterback of a talented class, there are some significant reasons in which the Bengals should hesitate to pounce when they’re on the clock. Of course, these reasons disregard the Supplemental Draft route.
Bengals’ recent failures and injury issues with high picks
While not every first-round pick since 2012 have been busts, many of them have failed to materialize into quality players. The lack of yields from important picks have directly led to the four consecutive losing seasons we’ve seen from 2016-2019.
Most of the failures by these picks have been because of injuries suffered early in their careers. Some came to the team already damaged, while others got dinged up in early practice sessions. In some cases, like with Jonah Williams, it’s up for debate.
Since 2012, Cincinnati has had nine first-round picks. Seven of them had significant injury issues in their first year alone, while eight of the nine showed a propensity to amass injuries throughout their respective careers.
Dre Kirkpatrick, No. 17 overall, 2012: Missed 11 games as a rookie, currently on I.R.
Kevin Zeitler, No. 27 overall, 2012: Played all 16 games as a rookie, missed just eight games in eight NFL seasons.
Tyler Eifert, No. 21 overall, 2013: Missed one game as a rookie, has been on PUP or I.R. four times in seven seasons.
Darqueze Dennard, No. 24 overall, 2014: Missed eight games first two seasons, started 2019 on PUP.
Cedric Ogbuehi, No. 21 overall, 2015: Missed 11 games as a rookie.
William Jackson, No. 24 overall, 2016: Placed on I.R. as a rookie (no games played).
John Ross, No. 9 overall, 2017: Missed 13 games as a rookie (eventual I.R.) and nine games in 2018-2019.
Billy Price, No. 21 overall, 2018: Missed six games as a rookie, was drafted with partially-torn pectoral muscle.
Jonah Williams, No. 11 overall, 2019: Placed on I.R. before Training Camp.
We’ve said it for a few seasons now, but Cincinnati needs to nail their high picks to get out of this annual tailspin. It’s especially imperative in 2020, with the team looking to have at least a top-five pick.
They can’t have another critical player who needs to immediately contribute succumb to more injuries.
Do you trust the Bengals’ medical staff?
Years back, Cincinnati’s medical staff came under much scrutiny. Under Marvin Lewis, the group was revamped a couple of times over and improvements could be seen.
Zac Taylor brought in a new group of strength and conditioning coaches this offseason to help shape the players to suit his vision and game plans. However, Nick Cosgray and Paul Sparling continue to head up the Athletic Training side of the house.
While injuries occur all over the league, Cincinnati has seemed to have an inordinate amount of its players land on Injured Reserve in recent seasons. Even if positive reports surface with Tagovailoa’s progress, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a sudden setback and subsequent crippling of the 2020 season.
Even if the damage is limited via PUP designation, Tagovailoa wouldn’t be practicing nor conditioning. The importance of the latter is lessened with quarterbacks, but repetitions for rookie signal-callers is of utmost importance.
The fans, front office and Zac Taylor all need immediate improvement
Cincinnati’s fan base is one of the most rabid in the NFL. They’ve largely been loyal to the Bengals, even though the team has not reciprocated the relationship with playoff wins and championships.
A fed up base has been apparent the past two seasons, as the team currently boasts the second-lowest average home attendance—second only to the Chargers and their small, temporary home in L.A.
Injuries, free agency attrition and poor on-field results have kept Who Dey Nation away from Paul Brown Stadium. After all, Cincinnati has lost their past 12 games and are 1-15 in their past 16 games, dating back to late 2018.
As it goes with a symbiotic relationship, the ownership needs excitement and wins ASAP. The front office is undoubtedly seeing the lack of butts in seats and realizes that further changes need to be made in order to win the fans back.
This is especially the case if they keep Taylor in 2020. If you’re going to hang on to an unproven coach who is on his way to the worst season in franchise history, the ability to get players to immediately change the future is a must.
Tagovailoa can be a franchise guy, but because of this injury, it may not be truly witnessed until 2021. Quite frankly, this franchise just doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to take on the risk associated with the Crimson Tide quarterback.
For almost any other team with its act together, fan patience would come and logic would be found in the move. However, if the Bengals truly have him as head-and-shoulders above the others, even with the injury, they have to pull the trigger, despite the risk.
Also on this week’s show:
- Ryan Finley and the Bengals’ offense didn’t take advantage of a somewhat-rare solid defensive performance, as the team fell just short of the Raiders.
- Does the Week 12 contest versus the Steelers actually present one of the team’s best chances to secure their first win, in respect to the remaining schedule?
- Even though the Bengals are struggling in 2019 and their “scrappy nature” is lessened, should we expect this rematch to be chippy once again? Could it get as ugly as what we witnessed last week between the Steelers and Browns?
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