The 2019 season was disastrous for the Bengals, and a big reason why was the team losing two critical players before the regular season even began.
The first was 11th overall pick Jonah Williams going down with a torn shoulder labrum in OTAs. He was expected to be Cincinnati’s starting left tackle, a position that turned out to be one of, if not the team’s biggest weakness, and it hamstrung the offense all season long.
Then came the loss of star receiver A.J. Green on the first day of training camp. While the Bengals still got good production out of Tyler Boyd, he’s simply still not the caliber of player Green is, even now that the veteran is in his 30s.
Those two losses effectively crippled an offense that went on to finish 26th in total offense and 30th in points per game. The hope is both will return and make a major impact for the Bengals in 2020. Both players also happen to be on NFL.com’s list of the top comeback candidates this year.
Here’s what Gil Brandt had to say about Green, who came in at No. 4 in the ranking.
Green will be 32 years old entering the season and has missed 23 of 32 games while dealing with injuries over the past two years, including all of 2019 — but I can see the logic in keeping Green in the fold via the franchise tag. First and foremost, Cincinnati believes Green can regain the form that made him the second-leading receiver in the franchise’s 52-year history. Second, he should help No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow establish his NFL footing as a rookie quarterback more quickly. And he and young receivers Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins should be able to feed off each other, with Green providing veteran leadership and Boyd and Higgins opening up opportunities for Green.
And here’s what Brandt said on Williams, who came in at No. 7.
The rookie debut of Cincinnati’s 2019 first-round pick never came to pass, thanks to the torn labrum that required Williams to undergo surgery last June. He is set up to play a very important role with the Bengals in Year 2, given that their weak offensive line last season contributed to their league-worst 2-14 record. Cincinnati is now counting on Williams to fortify the group and protect No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow’s blind side.
Which player do you think is more important to the Bengals’ 2020 success?