The Cincinnati Bengals 2023 season has largely been disappointing, starting off very slow with Joe Burrow clearly playing through an injury.
As he got healthier, the team improved, but he was injured again during one of the most pivotal games of the year. With Burrow set to miss the rest of the year, it comes down to Browning.
It bears worth looking at the team’s DVOA at this point and trying to find what went wrong compared to 2022.
DVOA is the defense-adjusted value over average which tries to adjust rankings for offense and defense based on the opponent played and the situation. Running for 2 yards on 1st and 10 may be a negative play, but doing it on 3rd and 1 is a positive play as it gets the offense another set of downs.
DVOA attempts to adjust for situations like that when ranking a team's offense and defense. So with that, let’s take a look at the DVOA rankings provided through a tweet from Jay Morrison.
Updated #Bengals rankings— Jay Morrison (@ByJayMorrison) November 27, 2023
Total O: 27
Pass O: 19
Rush O: 32
Scoring O: 23t
Total D: 31
Pass D: 26
Rush D: 29
Scoring D: 19
Turnover +/-: 3
O DVOA: 11
D DVOA: 22
ST DVOA: 6
The Bengals clearly look pretty rough overall, especially looking at the rush offense and the total defense. They were the worst and second-worst in the league in those rankings, respectively.
The pass offense seems like an easy fix, just get back a healthy Joe Burrow, but there will be a question about how they can improve the run game.
Adding a running back who is able to create more would be helpful, as Joe Mixon is below average in most statistics that track running back efficiency, such as missed tackles forced and yards after contact.
On top of that, the Bengals may look to make a change at the offensive line coach as Frank Pollack has gotten the Bengals to invest a lot of money and picks into the offensive line, and they are underperforming this year. Whatever the Bengals do, something needs to be done for the run game.
On the defensive side, the explosive plays allowed and run defense have been real issues. Losing Jessie Bates has clearly been a bigger issue than expected as the team struggles to adjust. Dax Hill and Jordan Battle are growing together at safety, along with other young players like DJ Turner, Cam Taylor-Britt, and Myles Murphy all seeing their roles grow.
The defense is getting younger as recent early picks work in, and the hope is they will continue next year. With the run defense already struggling, though the Bengals need to retain DJ Reader and ideally add a pass rusher on the interior for the 3T role
Overall, comparing it to 2022, the Bengals' DVOA ranks are much worse. In 2022, they finished 4th in offensive DVOA and 7th in defensive DVOA. With a very similar roster, it was expected they would be about as good in 2023, but the losses clearly hit more than expected, and Burrow’s injuries exacerbated the issues.
The defense should improve as they grow as a young unit. However, a retooling on offense is due with no long-term tight end on the roster and the WR2 and WR3 both being free agents after the season, along with the fact the Bengals may want to look to add someone more dynamic to the running back room.