If the 2020 Bengals are going to overcome their 2019 woes and make some noise this coming season, the weapons they have on offense will have a major say in it.
However, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell isn’t quite as high on the Bengals’ offense as one would think. Barnwell ranked all 32 NFL groups of offensive weapons, which is specifically for skill-position players and does not factor in the impact of the quarterback, offensive line or scheme.
It’s also strictly for 2020, so long-term potential doesn’t really matter. So while No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow will be a major part of the Bengals offense, this ranking is for the weapons he’ll have.
You would think the Bengals would be fairly high since the offensive line, arguably the team’s biggest weakness, isn’t factored in. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find a team with a five-man group of wide receivers like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tee Higgins and Auden Tate, not to mention a rising star at running back in Joe Mixon.
However, Barnwell ranked the Bengals 23rd overall, making them the 10th-worst unit heading into next season.
If we could pencil in 16 games from A.J. Green for first overall pick Joe Burrow, the Bengals would be further up these rankings. Of course, Green has played just nine games since the start of 2018 while dealing with groin, toe and ankle injuries. Unless he inks an extension before Wednesday’s deadline or signs his franchise tag, it’s unclear whether the star wideout will ever play another game for the Bengals.
The Bengals still have a group of wideouts with upside in rookie Tee Higgins, slot receiver Tyler Boyd and frustrating former first-rounder John Ross III, who averaged 1.98 yards per route run while simultaneously dropping four of his 56 targets. Tight end isn’t very exciting, but the Bengals do have Joe Mixon, who Bill Belichick called “probably [the] best back in the league” in December. I’m not quite on board with that level of praise, but Mixon has been pretty good over the past two seasons despite playing behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. If the line improves in 2020, Mixon could challenge for the rushing title.
While the Bengals should be higher in this ranking, you can’t blame anyone for not being high on a team that’s gone 8-24 over the last two seasons.
Another issue is tight end isn’t exactly a position of strength with Tyler Eifert departing for the Jaguars. C.J. Uzomah just doesn’t move the needle much, and former second-round pick Drew Sample was a ghost for much of his rookie season.
And while Mixon is a force in the backfield, he’s not getting much help from running mate Giovani Bernard, who averaged 3.2 yards per carry on 53 runs for 173 yards last season while catching a career-low 30 passes for 234 yards. He also failed to reach the end zone for the first time in his seven-year career.
Still, if this unit can just stay healthy for the majority of next season and Joe Burrow proves to be an upgrade at quarterback, this unit should finish much higher than 23rd overall. Bank on it.