Last year’s run at the Super Bowl was impressive, but the whole process starts over with a new season. The Cincinnati Bengals are about to begin training camp and have most of the team from last year intact. After playing in the system, many players understand the expectations and have the experience to make it back to a Super Bowl. Check out the best bookmakers for betting on the NFL.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference
Going into his first off-season without rehab, Joe Burrow was able to take some time off to relax. This year should be much easier with everyone back and his experience of knowing the playbook. Burrow will expand on his play-calling and hopefully have more time in the pocket to show off his talents. Look for Brandon Allen to once again take over backup quarterback duties.
If you watched any regular or post-season games last year, the first thing that stood out was how many times Burrow was sacked in games. If Burrow just had a few more seconds, I believed he could have connected with receiver Ja’Marr Chase for the touchdown to win the Super Bowl. The Bengal coaching staff wasted little time correcting the offensive line issues in free agency.
The Bengals offensive line will look much different from a year ago. Ted Karris (New England) will start at center, Alex Cappa (Tampa Bay) at right guard, La’el Collins (Dallas) at right tackle, Jonah Williams at left tackle, and Jackson Carman penciled in at left guard.
I am sure Bengal fans are excited to see how this unit will work together during camp. The left guard spot may have competition causing Carman to look over his shoulder. Last year’s rookies, Hakeem Adeniji, Trey Hill, and De’Ante Smith, could make a push. 4th-round draft pick Cordell Volson could make a splash here practicing at both guard spots during rookie minicamp. At 6’7″, 313lb Volson, it seems the logical choice to push Carman.
Undrafted free agent 6’5″, 315lb guard Ben Brown out of Mississippi could push Trey Hill for the backup center position or a shot at the guard spot. Brown missed half of the 2021 season with a bicep injury which explains why he may not have been drafted. However, please keep track of Brown as he tries to make the 53-man roster.
Joe Mixon will continue to be the driving force in the running back room. As for now, Samaje Perine is the number two back off the bench, but what about some of the newcomers? Running back, Chris Evans now has a year in the NFL under his belt. He has proved to the coaching staff that he might need to be more involved in the offensive and not just on special teams. Undrafted running back Shermari Jones out of Coastal Carolina rushed for 1,040 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior season. He could pressure Trayveon Williams and Elijah Holyfield to make the back end of the roster.
Newly-signed tight-end free-agent Hayden Hurst was added to fill the void of departed CJ Uzomah. Drafted by the Ravens in the first round in 2018, he has the skills to be a great safety net for Burrow. Drew Sample was selected in the second round by the Bengals in 2019. Sample used mainly for blocking has the opportunity to prove he can be more consistent in the passing game. Nick Eubanks was another tight-end free agent signed in the off-season to compete with Michell Wilcox and Thaddeus Moss. It will be interesting to see which one of these three will move up the ladder or will the Bengals choose to look outside the organization.
Scotty Washington was a receiver on the practice squad last season. Over the summer, the 6′,5″ receiver decided that he wanted to try his hand at the tight end position this year. If he can improve his blocking skills, he could be someone to keep an eye on.
Undrafted free agent Justin Riggs out of the University of Kentucky is an Ohio native with a knack for getting open in goal line and red zone situations. He needs to have a strong preseason to make the team.
Receivers Ja-Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins had a fantastic season last year. We were fortunate that they stayed healthy during the year. Who will take over if one of them gets injured? Mike Thomas and Trenton Irwin look to be penciled in as next in line heading into training camp. Punt returner Trent Taylor has proved his worth on special teams and is a quality backup slot receiver. Stanley Morgan is a solid special teamer loved in the locker room, so look for him to make the team as well.
Special teams will also play a role in keeping any wide receivers past the big three. A name to keep a close watch on is second-year player Pooka Williams. He is an intriguing player who could show his quickness and agility in the return game and should step up as a receiver with last year’s experiencer. Check out the best new bookmakers for betting on the NFL.
The next-level receivers will depend on their performance in preseason games and special teams. It is exciting to root for the undrafted free agent players. Coastal Carolina’s Jaivon Heiligh is one of those; he put up big numbers in college, ending with 1,128 yards, 17.1 yards a carry, and seven touchdowns. Heiligh knows how to run good routes and has run-after-catch skills.
Receiver Kwamie Lassiter II from Kansas did not put up huge numbers while in college, but he has lots of experience returning punts. Look for him to bring some punting competition to camp. He has shown that he can field punts and does well at tracking the ball.
Miami’s (Oh) receiver Jack Sorenson will be an intriguing player to watch. According to Miami Athletics’ official website, Sorenson had 1,405 yards, 18.5 yards a carry, and ten touchdowns in 2021. He has a talent for getting open, plus his sure hands could help him find a spot on the team.
Overall, the Bengals improved their offense at every position this offseason. Having the same coaching staff, scheme, and mostly the same players from last year should allow them to dive deeper into the playbook. This is an advantage that many teams in the NFL would like to have heading into camp.