The Cincinnati Bengals aren’t expected to get anywhere close to the top of the AFC North but do not tell their management team that.
After pouring their energy into the draft and free agency, the Bengals came away with a drastically improved defense, signing Trey Hendrickson and Chidobe Awuzie, and selecting the draft’s best receiver.
Along with a healthy Joe Burrow, the Bengals aren’t going to be taking any stock in pre-season analysis. Just ask Director of Strategy and Engagement Elizabeth Blackburn who outlined why the Bengals have “high expectations” entering the 2021 season.
“We have high expectations, there’s just no way about it. We have a really talented roster. We’ve invested a lot on defense and the free agents we brought in this year and last year continue to look good. They’ve offered, I think a pleasant surprise off the field and in the locker room,” Blackburn said while on the Bengals UK Podcast.
“And the energy that I’m feeling from defense at a practice over the last week and a half is electric. It’s awesome.
“And then on offense, you look at Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase...our receiving room is elite.
“Joe Mixon is coming back. We’ve got a new offensive line coach in Frank Pollack, who people have such high regard for and trust in.”
The Bengals did everything they needed to this offseason to field a contending roster. Quite a bit of what they have left to do will be internal. Can Joe Burrow build on his rookie season? Can Joe Mixon stay healthy? Can the offensive line be competent?
It’s both the offense and defense that must step up this season, and with the personnel they have on their roster, they should be able to do just that which is why Blackburn shouldn’t have any second thoughts about saying something should be expected of the Bengals.
With the Bengals' first preseason game on Saturday, fans will get their first look at the roster. It won’t matter much, but a good performance should be able to calm some nerves as the team has won just six games over the past two seasons.
Expectations are high, and for Zac Taylor’s sake, let’s hope they don’t come short of them.