The 2022 NFL preseason is rapidly approaching, with team practices growing more intense by the day. Coming off an offseason for the ages that changed not only the complexion of individual teams but both the AFC and NFC as a whole. Many things will look quite different from a season ago. It’s the perfect time for the fourth annual edition of Three Burning Questions. As in years past, this 32-part series will look at the three most pressing questions facing each of the 32 teams. Here are the Three Burning Questions for the Cincinnati Bengals.
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Will the Revamped Offensive Line do Their Job?
The biggest weakness last season was the offensive line and their ability to keep quarterback Joe Burrow upright. That weakness was exploited by opposing defenses. Their franchise quarterback who was returning from an ACL tear that ended his rookie season after just 10 games, was sacked 51 times in the 2021 regular season. The team overhauled their offensive line this offseason to prevent Burrow from taking so many unnecessary hits. The Bengals signed a trio of linemen. Former New England Patriots Ted Karras, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Alex Cappa, and Dallas Cowboys La’el Collins. Karras and Cappa have a combined three Super Bowl rings, after helping keep Tom Brady upright, which Burrow will welcome.
Can the Offense be Even More Explosive?
Burrow, the Comeback Player of the Year, threw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns last season. Joe Mixon rushed for a career-high of 1,205 yards and tallied 13 touchdowns. Mixon earned his first Pro Bowl nod in his fifth NFL season out of Oklahoma. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Ja’Marr Chase, after a preseason where he struggled to catch passes consistently and had many already labeling him a bust, accounted for 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns in his debut campaign. He won the Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl. With the expected added protection for Burrow, head coach Zac Taylor’s team that was the thirteenth ranked offense in total yards could easily break the top five this season.
Was Last Season a Fluke?
The expectations are usually high for the losing team of the Super Bowl. The Bengals were last season’s Cinderella story, falling short of the fairy tale ending after a late Cooper Kupp touchdown catch sealed the Lombardi Trophy for the Los Angeles Rams victory. The defending AFC North champions have to be the early favorites to win this division again. But the three other teams have made their own roster moves to prevent that from happening, so the Bengals will have a bigger target on their back than they are used to, and they will likely welcome it and feed off of that all season long.
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