The Cincinnati Bengals wrapped up the 2020 season with injuries galore. The death knells of the lost year coming in the guise of the season-ending variety to their two star Joes: franchise quarterback Burrow and running back Mixon. They finished 4-11-1, in the basement of the tough AFC North which sent its other three members to the postseason.
As players who suffered season-ending injuries continued to rehab, Cincinnati was active in the free agency period, adding pieces as well as watching some familiar faces head elsewhere as they continued to reconstruct the roster headed into the draft in April.
A little less than a month removed from the event, the paint has yet to dry in Bengaldom on the Ja’Marr Chase versus Penei Sewell debate, and it is unlikely to blow over anytime soon. Fans of each side have a stacked arsenal of “I told you so”s at the ready for the first hint that Chase is other-worldly or if Sewell should have been on board for protection. The infighting over this pick is likely to drag on longer than The War of the Roses.
That pick of Chase at fifth overall is not the only question surrounding Zac Taylor’s squad, but it is the top question on the list. Here is the first of several “True or False” installments on the Bengals offseason progress as the Orange-and-Black head towards the 2021 season.
Selecting Ja’Marr Chase Was the Right Move?
False. Well, True. It is fitting to start with such a contentious subject in Cincinnati, and the answer just depends on whom you listen to. Every argument has been laid out ad nauseum in the media, on message boards, over family dinners… you name it.
Sewell was (by all accounts) an all-world offensive lineman, a can’t-miss prospect, and part of the solution to a much-needed shot in the arm of Joe Burrow’s protection. Chase was (by all accounts) an all-world receiver, a can’t-miss prospect, and Burrow’s favorite weapon of all-time.
The fact of the matter is that the pick was both right and wrong. At No. 5, the Bengals were faced with the best dilemma to have: Do we select this stud, or do we select that stud? Whether or not it was the “right” move is neither here nor there. The only wrong move at that spot would have been taking neither.
As mentioned before, this debate will rage on game-by-game for an eternity. The result is likely to be that both players were as advertised and there was no wrong way to go. Now if you could convince fans in the Queen City to see it that way, maybe they will lay down their arms and call for a ceasefire.
So… Cincinnati is Done Spending?
False. A bit confusing based on the above comments, but the two actually go hand-in-hand. Part of the reason one can expect the Bengals to stop the active free-agent shopping is that they need some of the money for their own guys. The team has a significant amount of room under this year’s salary cap. However, spending it down to zero in free agency has not exactly been their M.O. in years past.
They still need to sign Chase and third round pick Joseph Ossai from this year’s draft. The Brown/Blackburn family will have a bevy of players hitting free agency after this season. That is, if they are not under contract. Names like Jessie Bates, Sam Hubbard, Riley Reiff, Quinton Spain are all probably going to engage in some sort of extension talks at some point prior to or during the season. Bates and Hubbard in particular are likely to be addressed before the season begins. Add to that players like Auden Tate, Darius Phillips, C.J. Uzomah who also may see pre-season discussions, and a whole collection of veterans on one-year deals.
Joe Burrow Will Eclipse 4,500 Yards Passing?
True. Joe Burrow has gotten the “all systems go” prognosis from doctors and looks on track to begin the season under center for Week 1. He will need some help, but 4,500 is a very attainable goal. Start up front, where Burrow was sacked a whopping 32 times in 10 games in 2020. Their projected starting five in 2021 allowed a grand total of five of those 32. The two new starters (Reiff and Jackson Carman) allowed four combined last year. With the changes made and the addition of Frank Pollack, the line is improved. Add Chase and the rest of the offensive firepower to the equation, as well as a defense that is not in the ‘shut-down’ category. You now have a recipe to throw the ball… a lot.
In 2020, only five NFL quarterbacks passed the 4,500-yard mark. That was in a 16-game season. If Burrow plays a full slate, he could sniff 5,000 in 17 games.
Zac Taylor Needs At Least 7 Wins to Keep His Job?
True. Cincinnati has given Taylor everything he has asked for thus far as a head coach. He has installed his philosophies, has a load of players he oversaw drafting and signing, and has sent away players that did not fit his vision. It’s time to put up or shut up for Taylor, as Bengals management is not going to give him as long of a leash that they gave a veteran coach like Marvin Lewis.
Seven wins would be marked improvement and a sign that the team is definitely headed in the right direction. It might be best to temper expectations for a winning record in Cincinnati in 2021, but if Taylor has his team playing close to .500 ball, a lot of people will allow more leeway.
Next up: True or False June features more individual stats and the schedule.
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