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Tuesday Trenches: They’re Back!

Do Joe and the Bengals have his groove back? I think so.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Talk about night and day!

The Cincinnati Bengals finally looked like the Cincinnati Bengals when they defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale by a score of 34 to 20. Joe Burrow did Burrow things. He threw for 317 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception that wasn’t his fault (Trent Irwin fell down on his route). The offense finally clicked, and Ja’Marr Chase broke a franchise record by catching 15 passes.

The defense, while not perfect, was much improved from the loss to the Tennessee Titans and created three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble). They also never allowed Josh Dobbs to get comfortable in the pocket.

Here are a few things that stood out to me about the Bengals Week 5 game:

  • Welcome, DJ Turner! The Bengals rookie second-round pick out of Michigan started in the place of Chidobe Awuzie on Sunday and played pretty well for his first start. The speedy cornerback gave up three receptions on four targets for 29 yards, but he also knocked down a pass that he could have intercepted, and he had a huge stop on the edge that saved the Bengals from giving up a big gain. For being his first start, the rookie cornerback played well, and the future of the position is very bright.
  • Dax Hill, the Swiss Army Knife. The second-year safety/first-year starter is a very different player than Jessie Bates III. Bates has shown over the last few years that he’s one of the best center-field-style free safeties in the league. Hill may not be as good as Bates in coverage right now, but he has shown how versatile his athleticism allows him to be. While he did take 35 of his 60 snaps at free safety, he lined up in the box 13 times, along the defensive line once, over the slot receiver 11 times, and once at wide corner. He was in the box more than Mike Hilton on Sunday, and being an “in the box” slot corner has been Hilton’s thing over his career. It’s exciting to see Hill grow into the multi-tool asset that Lou Anarumo can use to wreak havoc.
  • Trey Hendrickson is the monster under a quarterback’s bed. He was an absolute monster (AGAIN) on Sunday, bringing down Josh Dobbs 2.5 times in the backfield (PFF credits him with three). He forced Dobbs to throw hurried pass after hurried pass and just absolutely dominated left tackle D.J. Humphries all afternoon. Actually, Hendrickson is the monster under Humphries’ bed too. He’s on pace for 20 sacks in 2023 so far.
  • How could I have possibly gotten this far into the article (450 words) without talking about Burrow?!? He looked like Burrow from the first drive to the last. The offense got right off to a hot start with a touchdown on the opening drive (the team’s first first-half touchdown this season), and even after a few three-and-outs, they got back in rhythm with a 63-yard bomb to Chase in the opening drive of the third quarter. It was the first out-of-your-seat moment so far this season for the offense.

I didn’t sit down after that.

The Bengals, now with an incredible opportunity to go into their bye week with a 3-3 record, host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Here’s what the sea birds of the Emerald City bring to the Queen City.

But before we do that, here’s what a baby seahawk (another name for an Osprey) looks like:

  • The Seahawks don’t have an incredibly potent offense, that scores on every drive, and they have a pretty good pass defense, but what they’re really good at is not screwing up on offense, protecting the quarterback, stopping the run, and rushing the passer. They’re 3-1, having defeated the Lions, Panthers, and Giants, and they lost to the Rams. They’re a good team that has benefited from having a pretty easy schedule so far this season.
  • Geno Smith’s story is awesome, and I’m happy he’s found success in Seattle. Obviously, I won’t be rooting for them this weekend, though. He has a really solid group of receivers, headlined by human bullet train DK Metcalf, but it also includes Tyler Lockett and 2023 first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Don’t forget about tight end Noah Fant, who was acquired in what has to be considered now as the worst trade in NFL history. When you add running back Kenneth Walker (4.4 yards per carry and five touchdowns), the Seahawks have an offense exploding with potential.
  • Seattle is coming off the first available bye week they could have had and will be well rested. The Bengals aren’t as healthy, but Burrow is looking healthier every week, highlighted by his performance against the Cardinals, and that’s all that matters. The Bengals also have some momentum coming out off a win. The Seahawks have won three in a row, but it’s always possible to get cold over an off week.

Here are a few random thoughts on the Bengals win in Week 5:

  • The lack of depth at running back is going to be a problem. Joe Mixon, who averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on Sunday, got 25 carries. The only other running back with a carry was Trayveon Williams, and all he had was one single rushing attempt. If the Bengals can’t rely on someone to effectively (if you want to call it effective) run the ball other than Mixon, he’s going to break down before the season is over.
  • The offensive line shows flashes of great play and then will look like crap for a snap or two. The first quarter of the season is over, and the time to come together as a unit is here. The 2022 starting offensive line needed a few games to get their feet under them. Hopefully that’s the same for the 2023 line.
  • I know I mentioned it above, but Hendrickson has been deadly off the edge this season. His strong camp has definitely carried into the season.
  • Burrow’s bomb to Chase to open the second half was such an awesome moment. It was a relief to see him look like himself again. When Tee Higgins is healthy again, and he and Burrow get on the same page, watch out.
  • I thought at first that the Bengals just don’t have the tight end involved in the offense very much by design, but I don’t think that’s true. Hayden Hurst and CJ Uzomah both had more receiving yards in their first games of their respective final seasons with the Bengals (in Hurst’s case, the only season) than Smith Jr. has had so far this season. Granted, he’s missed two games with a hamstring injury, but he’s just not able to produce. I’m not sure what the issue is, but it might be time for the Bengals to give Tanner Hudson some more playing time.
  • I’m excited about the future of the secondary with Cam Taylor-Britt and Turner on the outside and Hill and Jordan Battle at safety.
  • I cannot understand how the Bengals were able to retain Germaine Pratt on a deal with only $7 million guaranteed! He and Logan Wilson are among the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
  • Before James Conner left the game, he was averaging 7.7 yards per carry. That has to improve.
  • When Burrow and Chase are on the same page, the wide receiver is almost unstoppable.
  • In the absence of Higgins, I figured Tyler Boyd would have a huge game. Boyd had six catches for 39 yards, but Trenton Irwin had a big game with eight catches for 60 yards.
  • Andrei Iosivas almost had a beautiful toe-tap sideline catch. He was millimeters out of bounds.
  • CTB’s pick-six was just what the doctor ordered when the Bengals offense stalled on a fourth-and-goal play and completely allowed the team to play easy and free with a decent lead for the first time this season.

I have a feeling the Bengals are back.

It’s a lot more fun to write about, I know that.

Who Dey!