It’s not easy being a diehard fan of an 0-fer team, but Bengals fans do have a few things to be thankful for this year.
Here are 5 things to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner if you want to see your non-Bengals-fan family members’ eyes roll:
1. Andy’s Back!
I’ll admit it. With the Bengals’ struggles on the offensive line and Ryan Finley’s ability to move in the pocket, I was excited to see what he could do when the team gave him the nod.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been impressive. Finley can be a good player in this league, but he is not the starting quarterback you want. If Andy Dalton had played last week against the Steelers, maybe that game goes differently.
Dalton’s return gives the Bengals a better chance to win and will make games more palatable for fans.
I don’t mind giving Finley a shot, but it is time that the Red Rifle rides again.
2. First Overall Pick
With no wins on the season, the Bengals are currently the favorites to get the first selection of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins all have two wins, which means when Zac Taylor finally does get his first win, they will still be in a position to have the first pick.
This will give the Bengals the opportunity to select either the NCAA’s best player in Ohio State defensive end Chase Young or—more likely—their potential quarterback of the future in LSU’s Joe Burrow .
This is exciting and gives you great hope for the future in Cincinnati.
3. Players Returning from Injury
Of course, the Bengals really have two first-round picks coming into 2020. Their first round pick from this year, Jonah Williams, still hasn’t seen the field due to injury. Williams could give a huge boost to a struggling offensive line. Veteran tackle Cordy Glenn just came back into the lineup this week and it certainly helped.
Pass rusher Carl Lawson dealt with injury early in the season and has looked good in recent weeks. His skill as a pass rusher is something this team needs on the field.
Of course, the injury bug has bit the Bengals hard this year and they anticipate the eventual return of several players including: A.J. Green, John Ross III, Dre Kirkpatrick, Rodney Anderson, Darius Phillips, and Ryan Glasgow.
4. 2019 Development
While the team as a whole has regressed, some players have gotten noticeably better. Second-year defender Sam Hubbard has been a bright spot this season. After using him in a defensive end/ defensive tackle role in 2018, they have used him more as a defensive end/linebacker in 2019 and it is a much better fit.
Wide receiver Auden Tate has also taken a huge leap in his sophomore campaign. Tate has 35 receptions for 493 yards in 10 games this season.
Defensive back Brandon Wilson has been with the team a little longer, but is getting more work on defense and has been phenomenal on special teams this season. Not only has he been impressive returning kickoffs (including a touchdown against the Ravens in Week 6) he has been seemingly unblockable on punt coverage.
5. Time in the Offseason
Perhaps the most precious thing that any of us can ask for is time.
The Bengals had to wait until after the Super Bowl to officially hire Taylor as their head coach. This in-turn meant that they had to wait to hire his assistants. He may have missed out on some of his first choices due to the delay, so more staff changes could come in 2020.
Due to the organization of the Bengals front office, the coaches play a huge role in scouting. Last year they were far behind because of the coaching change. It is not just college scouting, but pro scouting as well. Some have speculated that this is why Preston Brown was re-signed only to be cut midseason.
With a full offseason, Taylor can get the staff setup the way he wants and spend time evaluating the team’s roster, identifying free agent targets, and scouting for the draft.
With a little luck, this could lead to much better results and fixing some of the holes on the roster for 2020.