Among the issues that have plagued the Cincinnati Bengals since their slide from the 2011-2015 postseason streak, injuries have arguably been the biggest. Some of the team’s most important players have suffered significant ailments, thus leading to five straight losing seasons.
However, in 2020, some came back to form to contribute to the team’s success. And, because of their unexpected foray in outside free agency, some of these bounce-back years came from players who weren’t even with the Bengals in 2019.
Cast your vote and sound off on your winner for the Bengals’ 2020 Comeback Player of the Year!
Mike Daniels, defensive tackle
One of our personal favorites here at Cincy Jungle had his presence known after being a late free agency addition this summer. Unfortunately for both Daniels and the Bengals, his role had to drastically change because of injuries up front, but he remained a productive player with increased snaps.
Daniels had some injury issues with the Detroit Lions last year, and while he had some nicks this year, he played in two more games in 2020. He had seven more total tackles this year than in 2019 (17 to 10). If you want to truly know his value to the defense, take a look at the season finale against the Ravens, where the Bengals let up the most rushing yards in franchise history, as Daniels unfortunately had to sit that one out with Covid-19.
Margus Hunt, defensive lineman
When the Bengals re-signed Hunt, a natural first reaction may have been to chuckle. However, the massive force up front brought some of his trademark skills to lead to some memorable plays.
Hunt was moved from both edge to interior on the defensive line and made impact plays to Bengals wins. While he only had six tackles to his credit in nine games with Cincinnati, they included a sack and two total tackles for loss. He also had a whopping four pass deflections, two of which led to crucial interceptions against the Steelers and Ravens, respectively.
Jonah Williams, offensive tackle
It’s hard not to improve upon a season wherein a player didn’t notch a single snap. And, while it was an up-and-down season for Williams in what was essentially his rookie campaign, he showed a lot of promise.
In 2019, Cincinnati had the audacity to trot out Andre Smith, John Jerry and others, as Cordy Glenn was dealing with a concussion. They sorely missed Williams, a No. 11 overall pick, in his rookie campaign.
While his second pro season was also cut short with an injury, Williams had a respectable 70.1 overall grade by Pro Football Focus and suited up for 10 games this season. Cincinnati will look to shore up its offensive line this season and some concerns remain about the health of Williams going forward, but optimism should be high in year three.
A.J. Green, wide receiver
At first blush, this is a stretch, given the uncharacteristic struggles by No. 18 this year. But, the fact that he simply played all 16 games this year is a feat, based on the past couple of seasons.
Green finished with some of the lowest numbers of his career, but was still a contributor on offense. Green had 47 receptions for 523 yards and two touchdowns in 2020, as the Bengals’ offense struggled with consistency—especially after Joe Burrow got injured.
Drew Sample, tight end
Sample was a bit of a surprise pick in the second round of 2019, with many proclaiming he was a reach. After a lackluster and injury-filled rookie season, Sample took some nice steps forward in his second year.
Sample finished with 40 receptions for 349 yards, 16 first downs and a touchdown in 2020. By comparison, he had just five catches for 30 yards and one first down as a rookie. As Burrow progresses and Sample matures, he should continue to be a nice security blanket for the Bengals’ offense going forward.
Who gets your vote for the Bengals’ 2020 Comeback Player of the Year?
This poll is closed
DL Mike Daniels
DL Margus Hunt
OT Jonah Williams
WR A.J. Green
TE Drew Sample