Are the Cincinnati Bengals the biggest disappointment in the NFL this year?
Does that mean this season is already over?
There are still 13 games to be played. This team is stacked from top to bottom. And they just bounced back from a similar hole last year and ended the season just a play or two away from another Super Bowl appearance.
But aside from the obvious, here are five other reasons that Bengals fans should still have hope:
#1 - Joe Burrow is getting healthier
Whether you think his issues are purely physical or a mix of both physical and mental, Joe Burrow is (slowly) getting through them. And once his calf feels good enough for him to step up into the pocket and really plant his foot, you’ll start to see him lighting up defenses again.
Clips from Wednesday’s practice demonstrated that the QB has more zip on his throws than he did in previous weeks:
Seeing a lot more movement into deep throws from Joe Burrow during (open media) practice today.— Jeremy Rauch (@FOX19Jeremy) October 4, 2023
Looks like a step forward. We'll see how that translates on Sunday. #Bengals @fox19 pic.twitter.com/2SkMWPhKG0
#2 - The o-line is ahead of where it was last year
We tend to forget that Cincinnati’s o-line didn’t really get things figured out until about the midway point of last season. They are ahead of that standard this year, and the good news is, they have far better tackle play.
Meanwhile, Alex Cappa and Ted Karras, who were arguably the two biggest strengths of the line, will almost certainly back to the level of play they displayed in 2022 thanks to the luxury of stability at the tackle positions.
#3 - The defense is young but learning fast
Did the Bengals allow a lot of easy yards against the Tennessee Titans? Sure. But first of all, it’s hard for a defense to excel when the offense is making their jobs so difficult. Just as Burrow’s play inspired the defense to outperform expectations in the past, it is causing them to underperform now.
The other factor, though, is age in the secondary. Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell were more than their physical talent. They were both exceptional leaders with high IQs.
Both are gone and now rookies, second-year players, and a free agent signing from the Los Angeles Rams, Nick Scott, are expected to step up. That doesn’t happen overnight.
The good news is that Dax Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt have already demonstrated grit and physicality. And D.J. Turner adds speed and has adjusted to the league surprisingly quickly. So give them time, and, thanks to the brilliance of Lou Anarumo, they’ll soon start making life miserable for quarterbacks who dare test them.
#4 - Zac Taylor’s teams get off to slow starts
At this point, it’s just a fact. The Bengals are 1-3 this year, they started 0-2 last year, they lost a Week 2 game to the Chicago Bears in 2021, they went 0-2 in 2020, and they started 0-11 in 2019.
This could be because Taylor prefers less strenuous offseasons in order to avoid injuries to his players. Or it could be because he needs some time to figure out the strengths of his roster and build team chemistry.
Whatever the reason, it’s a fact. It’s also a fact that, other than 2019, his teams vastly improved after those rough starts. This year should be no different.
#5 - Ja’Marr Chase is indignant
The superstar wide receiver has not been shy about questioning his team’s playcalling. And Taylor didn’t attempt to dismiss his sentiment. Only good can come from this.
Zac Taylor called Ja'Marr Chase up to his office on Monday. Ja'Marr figured he was in trouble for his "I'm always f***ing open" comment.— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) October 5, 2023
Instead, Zac said, "Great f*** interview" after seeing the entire thing.
"I can go about my day with a smile now."
Remember, it’ll be Chase’s turn to get an extension this offseason. And Cincinnati’s front office fully recognizes the good fortune it had in recent NFL Drafts and doesn’t want to squander the opportunity to win a championship.
Is it a coincidence that the Bengals finally shelled out the cash to sign a top offensive lineman right before Burrow was due for an extension? Maybe. But in today’s NFL, it is important to keep the talent happy.
If this season ends in disaster and Chase is not involved, he won’t be happy. That’ll make contract negotiations a whole lot more complicated.
For more analysis, check out the video below:
You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below: