The most important players and simply the best players on a team are not always the same thing. For the Bengals, the distinction rings true from the right perspective.
For example, it would stink to lose A.J. Green again. But if Zac Taylor’s offensive system is as impressive as we all hope it will be, they could overcome. Tyler Boyd has immense talent and stepped into the WR1 role nicely after Green got injured last season. If John Ross and maybe Alex Erickson or Josh Malone could step up their game, the Bengals would be fine. Maybe they even catch lightning in a bottle with Stanley Morgan Jr. or Damion Willis. No one can replace Green, but they could overcome another injury of his.
On a similar wavelength, it would also stink if Tyler Eifert got hurt... again, but we’ve been down that road before, many times. He is an excellent playmaker when healthy, but the Bengals have enough skill players that they could survive. The Bengals drafted tight end Drew Sample in the second round. He is more well-known for his run blocking, but C.J. Uzomah and Mason Schreck can do some things in the passing game. Who says they even need to replace Eifert’s production with a tight end? As mentioned above, they have a ton of talented wide receivers.
On the other side of the ball, losing Carlos Dunlap would be unfortunate, but the Bengals could overcome this as well. Carl Lawson is an ascending edge rusher. Sam Hubbard is a fan favorite who showed a lot of promise last season. Kerry Wynn and Jordan Willis could also step up and contribute.
Green, Eifert, and Dunlap are three of Cincinnati’s best players, but they are not guys that the Bengals cannot afford to lose. If the following three players happen to miss any significant time, then that’s a completely different story.
If Dalton gets hurt, get ready for Tua Tagovailoa.
It was fun to watch Jeff Driskel last preseason, and it was the exact opposite when he had to replace an injured Dalton to close out the regular season.
The Bengals may like rookies Ryan Finley and Jake Dolegala, but nobody in the building wants to see one of those guys on the field next year.
It is all on Dalton. He has the ability to run this offense successfully, but if he goes down, the season is over. If Dalton goes down early, expect the Bengals to be on the clock first next April.
The Bengals have struggled for years to add a second interior pass rusher to pair with Atkins. If he goes down, they will be left with none. Ryan Glasgow is a solid player, but he is not someone who will have a major impact on the offense’s pass protection.
The Bengals need a healthy Atkins wreaking havoc on the interior and creating opportunities for the edge rushers.
Yes, the Bengals have a number of talented cornerbacks, but none of them compares to Jackson. Jackson is a true shutdown corner who can be counted on to lock down a team’s WR1. This has a huge impact on what the defensive coordinator can do with the other 10 players.
For example, without Jackson the Bengals would likely have Dre Kirkpatrick or Darqueze Dennard matched up on Odell Beckham Jr. when they play man coverage against the Browns, but neither of those players could do it alone. They would be forced to put Jessie Bates over the top. This means Bates wouldn’t be able to do other things, like play center field and make picks. It’s a domino effect.
There’s a reason why the top cornerbacks get big paydays. Jackson’s play has a similar impact that will eventually warrant a huge raise.
Speaking of domino effects, the Bengals losing Williams is really going to hurt. Things were already shaky at best when Clint Boling’s future was “uncertain” at the time Cordy Glenn moved to left guard during OTAs. Now, Boling is retired, and Glenn will be forced to play left tackle. This leaves a lot of questions on the interior offensive line.
The Bengals signed John Miller and John Jerry, but neither are necessarily difference makers. Beyond those two are the familiar threesome of Christian Westerman, Trey Hopkins, and Alex Redmond at guard and Billy Price at center. So yeah, not a lot of high quality names remain.
Glenn playing left tackle also means that there is no hope of getting anyone other than Bobby Hart at right tackle and the Bengals have no real swing tackle. So they absolutely need that pair to stay healthy. Yes, I am saying that the Bengals need Bobby Hart.
If Williams was healthy, he could play left tackle which would’ve allowed Glenn to play left guard or right tackle. Plus, in case of injury, his position versatility being would have been huge. As it is, the Bengals lost arguably their best offensive linemen in Boling and a highly promising rookie in Williams with in the span of a few weeks. This leaves the team in a very tough spot.
*Let’s hope I’m wrong, because as we all know, he is already out for the season.