The Trio of Talented Rookies Should Help Lift the Bengals Out of the Gloom
2019 was a season to forget for the Cincinnati Bengals with head coach Zac Taylor presiding over a miserable 2-14 record during his first season in charge. Despite finishing rock-bottom of the AFC North, there were legitimate excuses for their underwhelming performances with injuries derailing their campaign before it even got underway.
Pre-season optimism was quickly dampened by the loss of two important offensive players by mid-September. Starting left tackle Jonah Williams, who had also been the Bengals first-round pick at the 2019 draft, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury with his replacement Cordy Glenn also spending a large chunk of the season amongst the walking wounded. A.J Green did not play a single minute last season, leaving the franchise in dire straits going into a tough opener against the Seahawks.
Although the fitness of the seven-time pro-bowl wide-receiver is touch-and-go, the arrival of first-overall pick Joe Burrow has certainly given the long-suffering fans plenty to smile about. There is a vast amount of expectation on the young quarterback's shoulders, yet he is being tipped to thrive at the Paul Brown Stadium. Having helped his side to a National Championship, and having become the first LSU player to have been awarded the Heisman Trophy in 60 years, the 23-year old is a truly special talent, and has the ability to become a cult hero in Cincinnati over the next couple of seasons.
Burrow will be backed up by a journeyman QB, with the much-travelled Brandon Allen signing a contract with the franchise at the beginning of August. His experience could prove to be invaluable to the Iowa-born star during his debut NFL season.
Fellow rookie Tee Higgins could also play a big part in lifting the Bengals out of the doldrums this season. The second-round pick idolises the aforementioned A.J Green, and he simply cannot wait to play alongside the vastly experienced wide receiver.
The 21-year-old was a revelation for Clemson last season, and appears to have a big future in the sport. Despite losing out in the National Championship to a Joe Burrows-inspired display by LSU, Higgins ended the season with 59 receptions and 1,167 yards, whilst also scoring a total of 14 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Although he may not be a guaranteed starter every single week, the Bengals' recent injury record in this area of field would suggest that it won't be long until the Tennessee-born wideman is given a chance to shine.
The two newcomers will be joined by a third rookie in the aforementioned Jonah Williams. Regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in his class, the former first-round pick didn't get the chance to showcase his talent last season, and having made a full recovery this winter, he is likely to be a guaranteed starter this time around. As an incredible pass blocker, his presence in the side should allow Burrow far more time on the ball.
New Bengals OT Jonah Williams had the fourth-highest pass-blocking efficiency among the top tackle prospects pic.twitter.com/gvgLl2zgCK— PFF (@PFF) May 6, 2019
With Burrow, Higgins and Williams each looking to fulfil their potential, and a fit-again A.J Green potentially back to his potent best, the Bengals will surely improve exponentially in 2020. They are 2.74 in the latest American football odds to win over 5.5 games during the regular season, and with a much improved roster, they could be far tougher to beat this time around.
Although reaching the post-season may be a step too far, many fans are feeling cautiously optimistic ahead of the forthcoming season. The three rookies may take a bit of time to find their feet in NFL, however, their presence should vastly improve the fortunes of the Bengals, as long as Taylor's men can steer clear of yet another injury crisis.