The 2021 season was supposed to be all about promise for the Cincinnati Bengals. It was supposed to be year two for their franchise quarterback Joe Burrow, fresh off his rookie learning curve about to step into a big-time building block year after returning from injury. It still might end up being that, but as of right now, there’s unfortunately some reason to believe that might not come to fruition.
The origins of the concerns come from Burrow’s injury. After being selected No. 1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, Burrow played in and started 10 games for the Bengals last season, starting right away in Week 1. But in that 10th game, Burrow suffered an injury to his knee that was later confirmed to be a tear of his ACL and MCL, along with other structural damages. This injury obviously required surgery and forced Burrow to miss the remainder of the season.
Though Burrow is back at training camp with the Bengals, there are reports that he doesn't quite look like himself. It’s easy to suspect the reason for that being he’s back on the field for the first time since suffering his injury. Burrow is wearing a brace on his left knee and while there is some adjusting that needs to take place with that physically, mentally, the Bengals’ offense has not looked as sharp as people hoped to start camp. Not that any team looks perfect when camp kicks off, but it appears the Bengals offense is having a more difficult time getting in rhythm. Part of that could be a dip in confidence with Burrow as he is still getting his feet wet again post-injury.
“The first week, there was a lot on my mind,” Burrow said on NFL Network. “You know, I’ve always been pretty good in the pocket. It was tough to decipher who was who in the pocket. But then one day, it just kind of clicked back.”
According to Bengals owner Mike Brown, the plan right now is for Burrow to not play during the preseason.
“We probably aren’t going to put him out there until we get to the season because we don’t want to risk anything with him,” Brown said.
That timeline is certainly fine, but you also want to have more confidence than what is currently being reported when Burrow is out there that the offense is going to look better than it has this training camp.
The other area of concern is Zac Taylor, the team’s head coach.
Taylor is going on his third year of being the head coach of the team, and throughout his first two seasons, well, the results haven’t been pretty. The Bengals finished with just two wins in 2019, which got them Burrow, so not all bad, and finished with four wins last year. If the arrow keeps pointing in that same direction at the same slope, they should double their wins again and get to eight, right? They hope.
Taylor was hired because of his offensive background—one stop, in particular. He was with the Los Angeles Rams under Sean McVay as the assistant wide receivers coach and then quarterbacks coach before making the leap to head coach of the Bengals. So far, the offensive results haven’t been ideal.
The Bengals were 29th in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric in 2019 and were that same ranking of 29th again in 2020. The Bengals’ roster has not been ideal and that certainly factors in—especially with a rookie quarterback during one of those years—but it is coming time to worry a bit about Taylor, especially with the offense not looking great heading into the regular season of year three.
Perhaps it is just a confidence thing for Burrow. Maybe the rest of the offense is coming along fine (for the guys they have) and the last piece for it to be as good as it can be and show some progress is Burrow getting that confidence back again. But if it’s not, we might be talking about a lot of changes in Cincinnati next offseason.
- Dec 06, 2022
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