This Super Bowl Sunday will feature the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the San Francisco 49ers, who just last year had a top-five pick in the NFL Draft and coached the South team in the Senior Bowl. Naturally, the turnaround that San Francisco made is not the norm for most teams, but it does give hope Bengals’ 2020 season. Even if they don’t make Super Bowl LV, there is lots of reason to believe the Bengals will make a big jump this upcoming season.
Let’s take a look at some of those very reasons.
1. A second-year head coach
Zac Taylor was propped up to be a notable upgrade as an offensive coach for the Bengals in 2019, but they struggled on that side of the ball, especially early in the year. However, after Andy Dalton took back over with Ryan Finley’s benching, the offense started to turn a corner and look competent again. This could be due to health reasons, but it was clear that the coaching staff was doing a better job of matching the scheme to their personnel—a trend that will hopefully carry over into 2020.
2. A new young QB
While it is not yet written in stone, it’s fairly certain that the Bengals will end up with a new franchise quarterback this year by taking one with the first-overall pick. While a new quarterback isn’t guaranteed to be an instant upgrade over Dalton, he can provide hope for the future of the team. But if he shows to be considerably better than what they had last year, that improvement can make every aspect of the team function better. While the Bengals could stand to add new starters along the offensive line and get deeper at wide receiver, an upgrade at QB could help hide some of their deficiencies there and on defense.
3. Bad luck in 2019
It has been proven time and again that a lot of results in the NFL rely heavily on luck. In the Bengals’ case from last year, it was just a lot more bad luck than good luck. The Bengals lost eight one-score games in 2019 and won none of them. Teams with win-loss differential that high (or low, in this case) almost always regress in the opposite direction the next year, inflating or deflating their win total. It’s essentially impossible for the Bengals to be as bad this season as they were in 2019, and that will get them closer to be being competitive on top of any improved play.
4. More healthy weapons
While the Bengals’ tight ends and running backs were largely healthy in 2019, the same could not be said for their wide receivers; where Alex Erickson and UDFAs Damion Willis and Stanley Morgan both played a decent amount. A.J. Green missed all year and John Ross also missed a good amount of time. The loss of Green was obviously huge but Ross averaged 63 yards per game when he did play—which would’ve averaged out to over 1,000 yards if he stayed healthy all season. With a healthy Green potentially in the fold, it is unlikely Ross is as productive next year, but with a more accurate QB, the Bengals receivers could all put up much more efficient numbers.
5. Offensive line improvements
While nothing with the Bengals’ o-line is a guarantee nowadays, improvement in this unit is entirely feasible just based off assumed established chemistry and Jonah Williams coming into the fold. Next to Williams, Michael Jordan has nowhere to go but up in his second year after finishing his rookie season on a relatively high note, and Trey Hopkins is back in the fold under a new contract. There will surely be new investments in the form of early draft picks and potential mid-level free agents, but don’t forget about Fred Johnson, who filled in admirably the end of 2019 and could be fighting for a starting role at RT or either guard spot in 2020, even if swing tackle is his most likely role.