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Tuesday Trenches: The Dead Zone

Mini camp is over. Training camp is next month. The time in between is slow.

Minicamp is over, but for a few wonderful days last week, we got to see the entire Cincinnati Bengals team together on the same field for organized team activities.

It was glorious. Joe Burrow was throwing passes to the big three, but we got to see catches from Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas as well. Dax Hill, DJ Turner, and DJ Ivey got some work in, as did Orlando Brown Jr.

We got to see Jonah Williams, La’el Collins, and Chidobe Awuzie working out on the rehab field, where Awuzie did this:

I know he is recovering from a season-ending ACL tear, but Awuzie is looking good. The same goes for Collins and Williams.

There is so much to be excited for. After two straight appearances in the AFC Championship game, one of which they won, the core of the Bengals team is still together, possibly for the last time as several big-name players are going to be free agents after the season is over. They have among the best odds to win the Super Bowl this season, and the only things standing in their way are just a handful of teams, injuries, and themselves.

So what now?

Well, now we’re in the dead zone. Outside of contract news with Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Logan Wilson, and a few others, there isn’t going to be much to talk about until training camp. Luckily for those of us who are general Cincinnati sports fans, the Reds are surging in a big way, but if you’re just a football fan, and you live and die with the Bengals, what are you supposed to do?


So let’s just talk about annoying hypothetical situations....

Should the Bengals pursue Dalvin Cook?

Cook was officially released by the Minnesota Vikings and is now a free agent. The Bengals are in a weird situation with current running back Joe Mixon. They owe him a little over $12.7 million, which is a lot for a running back that struggles with pass blocking and only had 814 rushing yards last season. They could save over $10 million by cutting Mixon. However, the fact that they haven’t done it, and we’re well beyond June 1, tells me they aren’t going to.

Cook is coming off his fourth straight 1,000-yard season and is one of the last true workhorse backs in the NFL. So should the Bengals pursue him? Yes. Will they? No.

They could cut Mixon and sign Cook and pay him the same amount they’re paying Mixon right now, or possibly even less, and it would be an upgrade, but I don’t see the team making that move.

The Bengals are nothing if not loyal, and even though Mixon had a down year in 2022, we still know what he’s capable of. If the Bengals planned on replacing Mixon, I think they would have done it in the draft, and 2021 Mixon is more than capable of helping the Bengals win the franchise’s first Super Bowl. The most I see for Mixon is re-negotiating his contract where he takes a pay cut.

What is the thinnest position on the depth chart?

It can really come down between two position groups. First is tight end. After Irv Smith Jr., the Bengals have Drew Sample and Devin Asiasi as the only two players to see any significant playing time at the tight end position. If Smith Jr. is injured, the drop from him to Sample as far as pass catching is concerning.

Defensive tackle is another position where there’s not a ton of depth. The Bengals have DJ Reader and BJ Hill, but behind them, there’s Josh Tupou, Zach Carter, and Jay Tufele. Again, the drop-off from Hill and Reader is a big one. However, I expect the Bengals to move defensive ends to the inside at times.

Which position group is the thinnest? I gotta say tight end. We know what we have in Sample and Asiasi. This is why it was so surprising to me when the Bengals passed on Michael Mayer in the first round. It’s obvious that they don’t value the tight end position the way they do some others.

This week...

This week on Three and Out, Kevin and I will be joined by the Bengalorian, of Twitter fame. If you’re active on Twitter, you already know who he is, but if you’re not, he wears Bengals-colored Mandalorian armor to every game and has become a local celebrity. Since there isn’t anything going on, and we’re in the Dead Zone, we’re going to go through some of the major Star Wars characters and pick which players and coaches best exemplify that particular character. For example, is Joe Burrow Luke Skywalker? Why or why not?

The show will be coming out on Thursday morning, so keep an eye out for that. Here’s the dumb promo I made for it.

Hopefully, next week we’ll be able to discuss Burrow’s super team-friendly contract extension.... or just anything else.

I hate the summer.

Relevant song lyrics of the week:

They say Heaven’s at the end
But so far it’s been Hell
There’s fire on the mountain
And lightning in the air
There’s gold in them hills
And it’s waiting on me there....

Who Dey!