The NFL season is quickly approaching, and while the Bengals have a lot of reasons for hope in 2020, there are still some causes of concern. Of course, every team has concerns heading into Week 1. The question ends up being if the problems are ones that can be overcome or if they’ll be crippling.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the biggest questions facing the Bengals 2020 season.
1. Offensive line
For Bengals fans, that’s all I have to say for this much-maligned unit. Since the departure of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, the offensive line has struggled and been well below average. Even with the return of Jonah Williams, this unit is still a big unknown, especially after not having any preseason games to show if this unit has improved. Outside of left tackle and center, there are major questions about the rest of the offensive line.
Why they could overcome this?
Joe Burrow, the first overall pick, who certainly had better comparative protection at LSU, but it was also a scheme that consistently asked him to keep his eyes down field evading pressure and making plays after structure had broken down. That’s something that rarely happened with Andy Dalton and could help the offense even with subpar line play.
2. Wide receiver health
Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate have shown they can be effective. With the addition of a healthy Tee Higgins, that would be a solid wide receiver group on its own with the one caveat that there would be no deep threat on offense, and opposing teams would be able to sit on the underneath routes without fear of getting beat deep.
What could fix that problem are John Ross and A.J. Green, but both have already been banged up in training camp and have missed a combined 34 games over the last two seasons. The Bengals need one of Ross or Green to be healthy, because they are the keys to opening up everything else.
3. Tight end depth
Last season, the Bengals had a solid tight end pairing of Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah. Now with Eifert gone, the Bengals have two options. Either funnel most of the targets to CJ Uzomah, who has not proven he can handle being an offensive focal point. Or, the team can bank on the 2019 second-round pick Drew Sample, who has given no reason to believe in his NFL potential as of now. The Bengals spent the 52nd overall pick on him, so they obviously believed in him at some point, and it looks like he will get an opportunity very early to prove them right.
4. Second cornerback starter
Trae Waynes was signed on a very large deal to start opposite William Jackson III, but now it looks as if he will be missing most, if not the entire season with a torn pec injury. The Bengals need to find a replacement for him, and they won’t have much time to decide.
Darius Phillips seems like the obvious choice, but considering the fact the Bengals gave Trae Waynes a massive contract, it seems they didn’t have that much belief in his starting ability at least on the boundary.
Mackensie Alexander was signed to man the slot, but he’s also likely vying for the second boundary spot.
Someone has to step up and effectively hold down that second boundary spot for this talented defense to reach its potential.
5. Linebacker starters
Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither, and Markus Bailey, the three linebackers the Bengals took in the 2020 NFL Draft, all have starting potential. Heck a case could be made the two later players could have gone 1-3 rounds higher if it weren’t for injuries. The question here will be who is starting the season.
With really only two linebacker spots the majority of the time, it could be Germaine Pratt, a 2019 third-round pick, and Josh Bynes, the most recent veteran free agent signing. It could be any combination of the five, but the only thing that’s clear from 2019 is that whatever two players the Bengals send out there need to be significantly better, or else this team will waste what’s a loaded defensive line and a secondary with a lot of potential as well.