The Bengals won a game in the Joe Burrow era!
After losing two one-score games and suffering one tie, the Bengals finally outscored an opponent. This makes them 1-2-1 with a .375 winning percentage. While they are last in their own division, they would be first in the NFC East.
There are plenty of positives from this weeks’ game, even though the level of competition left something to be desired.
After the tie with the Eagles, the Bengals looked like they might not be able to beat any team in the league. They won a game against the Jaguars, which is not an impressive win, but a win nonetheless. The Bengals didn’t have any of those before, but now they do.
What did we learn from the first (of many, hopefully) win of the Joe Burrow era?
Tee Higgins is an emerging WR1
Rookie Tee Higgins was one of Joe Burrows’ favorite targets on Sunday. Higgins caught four of his seven targets for 77 yards. He was second among wide receivers in all three categories behind Tyler Boyd.
His three drops could have gone for huge plays, so he’s not all the way there as a WR1 yet. But the potentially is there, and his chemistry with Burrow is proven.
Boyd will be Burrow’s safety net and his first read most of the time. But as an outside receiver, Higgins could be first on the depth chart as soon as next week in Baltimore.
Over the last two years, the Bengals haven’t had a true WR1 without A.J. Green. With Higgins, the Bengals will have one for the next few years.
A.J. Green isn’t the same Green we’re used to
Green wants two things: a big payday and to retire Bengal. He might have to choose one.
On the franchise tender, Green needed to have a big year to prove that he is still a top receiver.
If the season ended this week, he probably wouldn’t get a single offer. He just doesn’t look right.
The good new for him is that there are twelve weeks left in the season. He missed a lot of practices and preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so maybe he’s still knocking the rust loose.
Unless he has a breakthrough in the next few weeks, he won’t be getting a long-term deal with the Bengals, or any other NFL team. Especially since Higgins is doing so well, the Bengals might not need him around after this season.
In hindsight, it was still the right move to tag him. In fact, in an approval poll from March, only 15 percent of voter thought tagging Green was the wrong decision. The tag was a gamble that the Bengals (and most fans) were willing to make.
But if Green continues to play like he has in 2020, he’ll hit the market as a free agent.
Rookies all have defined roles
The Bengals haven’t had this much production from a rookie draft class in quite some time.
Burrow and Higgins are the only starters in the lineup, but others have a defined role.
Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis-Gaither aren’t starters, but still have important jobs on defense. Even though Wilson didn’t play on Sunday because he was in concussion protocol, he still has a role.
The Bengals have been bad at drafting over recent years. 2015 is still a draft to forget. But the Bengals are getting production out of the first four picks of the 2020 draft. This is especially impressive considering all of the limitations of this peculiar offseason.
Sacks are decreasing
The most amazing part about the win on Sunday is that Burrow wasn’t sacked a single time.
Is Alex Redmond what fixed the offensive line? Probably not.
It is important to note that the Jaguars pass rush is far below what the Bengals have faced this season. Yet, they still put pressure on Burrow at times. The offensive line was better, but not perfect.
But Burrow did a better job of getting the ball out more quickly and avoiding pressure.
Zac Taylor said that part of the reason Burrow took so many sacks was because of how long he held onto the ball. Burrow himself even acknowledged it.
They clearly worked on it after taking eight sacks against the Eagles in Week 3. Burrow was better at managing the pocket against the Jaguars.