2023 Bengals: Run it Back

SMU_Sox

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Carl Lawson is a bad comp. Think if Carl Lawson was a very good run defender too but coming out he is less polished as a pass rusher.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Really Bengals Twitter didn’t like it? Man why the hell not lol? What isn’t to like about Murphy in the late 20s?! That’s crazy to me.
Joe Goodberry is the most visible Bengals/Draft guy and wasn't a huge fan. Gridiron Grading (who are Bengals fans) didn't like it a ton either. Both seem to be underwhelmed by the production - I thought 18.5 sacks/36 TFL in three years at a P5 school would grade out pretty well, but it seems to them there should've been more for a first-rounder. To be fair, a lot of guys liked it too. I'm fine with it - he was a pretty consensus mid-late first-rounder while Hendrickson and Hubbard are getting up there and played a ton of snaps the last two years.
 

SMU_Sox

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Joe Goodberry is the most visible Bengals/Draft guy and wasn't a huge fan. Gridiron Grading (who are Bengals fans) didn't like it a ton either. Both seem to be underwhelmed by the production - I thought 18.5 sacks/36 TFL in three years at a P5 school would grade out pretty well, but it seems to them there should've been more for a first-rounder. To be fair, a lot of guys liked it too. I'm fine with it - he was a pretty consensus mid-late first-rounder while Hendrickson and Hubbard are getting up there and played a ton of snaps the last two years.
Yeah that was my knock on him. He really never grew and produced as a pass-rusher. But he also has the traits to do so. Bengals develop their DL well so... he's a high floor pick to me and has a nice ceiling. Now it is true he might just be a quality starting edge who gives you 6-8 sacks a year but he could grow into something more.

You need to develop counters, secondary pass rush moves, etc. But his speed to power and that long-arm? Lordy lordy lord.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Yeah that was my knock on him. He really never grew and produced as a pass-rusher. But he also has the traits to do so. Bengals develop their DL well so... he's a high floor pick to me and has a nice ceiling. Now it is true he might just be a quality starting edge who gives you 6-8 sacks a year but he could grow into something more.

You need to develop counters, secondary pass rush moves, etc. But his speed to power and that long-arm? Lordy lordy lord.
Yep. I'm fine with the whole package - their DL coach used to be at Clemson too (not with Murphy). As Toscano said, it creates some pretty exciting options in passing situations with Hendrickson and Murphy on the edges with some combo of Hubbard/Ossai/Cam Sample inside. While the production wasn't elite, it's worth a shot at that point with the age and athleticism at a premium position.
 

Rudy's Curve

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It appears the Bengals have gone with the philosophy of pay your offense and draft your defense, as that now makes seven straight Day 1-2 picks on defense with the selections of Michigan CB DJ Turner and Alabama S Jordan Battle. Turner will compete for playing time this year and should be a starter in 2024 with Chidobe Awuzie turning 28 soon and coming off an ACL, while Battle could push newly signed Nick Scott who also turns 28 shortly. As Joe Goodberry notes, teams often ran 12 against the Bengals to keep Mike Hilton off the field and the Bills will be doing a lot more of that with Kincaid now. The response is to have safeties who can cover, and they have plenty of them now. It appears they've made speed in the secondary quite a priority as Dax Hill, Turner, Cam Taylor-Britt and Tycen Anderson all run sub-4.4, with Turner clocking in at 4.26. Battle was a bit of a curious pick from a need perspective, but they've put a big focus on leadership (the three captains at Alabama were Battle, Bryce Young and Will Anderson) and Lou Anarumo will find ways to use him as a movable piece. They also picked up a sixth from the Chiefs for moving down three spots in the third.

That should probably do it on defense as they'll definitely be drafting a RB today, most likely a TE and potentially a WR (they don't have a ton of depth there, Higgins is currently unsigned beyond this year and Boyd is most likely gone) and OL. I could also see them taking a QB late (Dorian Thompson-Robinson?), as they've made it pretty clear they'd like to upgrade the backup spot. They need competition at punter too, as Drue Chrisman's lack of hangtime killed them at the most inopportune time in the AFCCG.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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As expected, Day 3 was an offense day. Fourth-rounder Charlie Jones is already 24, but he's athletic and was incredibly productive at Purdue last year while giving them depth everywhere at receiver along with potentially being the punt returner. He naturally slots in as Boyd's replacement next year. Fifth-round RB Chase Brown will almost certainly start next year, although he lacks the pass-catching skills currently to complement Mixon (who will still be on the team) this year. Sixth-round WR Andrei Iosivas is a total freak (9.96 RAS) - he'll probably redshirt this year coming from Princeton but has a ton of upside. They used the extra sixth they acquired from the Chiefs to take a punter in Brad Robbins (oh, the irony), a hangtime specialist who should win the job pretty easily. Seventh-round CB DJ Ivey seems like he'll max out on special teams. @SMU_Sox - what are your thoughts on the Day 2-3 guys?
 
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Rudy's Curve

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The Bengals have agreed to terms with Trevor Siemian. They made no secret in their desire to upgrade from Brandon Allen (who signed with the Niners today), never making an effort to bring him back while nearly signing Cooper Rush when free agency started. They won't win much without Burrow, but Siemian should at least be able to keep them afloat if God forbid something happens.
 

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Some news and notes through the first two preseason games:

The Bengals might have a backup QB problem as they've scored one offensive TD in two games at the very end last week. I have no worries about Burrow's calf, but if he goes down for that or whatever reason for a game or a few they need someone to keep them afloat. Trevor Siemian was supposed to be an upper-echelon backup but he's looked awful and while Jake Browning knows the system and makes good decisions, he just doesn't have an NFL arm. That'll be something to monitor at cutdown day.

I would imagine they'll keep four RBs. They need to figure out the third down role to replace Samaje Perine as Mixon can't be in there. Trayveon Williams is their best blocker, but he's hurt. Chris Evans is their best receiver, but there are questions about his blocking. Fifth-rounder Chase Brown hasn't seized much of a role and may be headed for a gameday inactive to start the year.

Fourth-round WR Charlie Jones has been playing through a torn labrum which will unfortunately limit his impact this year. He'll probably still be the punt returner and get some slot snaps, but his impact as an all-around receiver probably won't be felt this year. Sixth-rounder Andrei Iosivas was supposed to be raw coming out of Princeton, but he's been more polished than expected and will definitely make the team. He should pick up the Chase/Higgins snaps with Trenton Irwin and is an exciting prospect.

OL depth sunk them at the worst possible time the last two years and I'm worried it may not be there again. Jackson Carman had the game of his life in the divisional round last year filling in at LT, but it may be time to chalk it up to a snowy day where the DL couldn't get any footing. The consistency is just not there from play to play. His draft status and play in the playoffs last year might save him, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's cut. Thankfully, Jonah Williams looked great Friday making his debut at RT and I feel good about him over there.

The DL is by far the deepest unit and one of the best units in the league. They're going to keep 10 and I wouldn't be surprised at all if some cut guys were claimed elsewhere. Second-year DT Zach Carter and third-year DE Cam Sample look to have taken big steps forward to go along with the continued progression of third-year DE Joseph Ossai. First-rounder Myles Murphy hasn't flashed a ton so far though, missed last week due to illness and may be headed for the inactives list at the start which says more about the depth of the unit.

There are going to be questions about the secondary since they lost Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, but I trust Lou Anarumo (who's been a secondary coach his entire life) to get this figured out. 2022 first-rounder Dax Hill steps into one safety spot and showed off excellent range in the first game. Top CB Chidobe Awuzie has progressed back to full team drills after a torn ACL in October and looks ready to go for the opener while Cam Taylor-Britt has been sharpening his craft all camp battling Chase every day. Throw in an elite slot corner in Mike Hilton and flashy second-rounder DJ Turner and I think they'll be just fine there.

We won't know everything for sure until they step on the field in Cleveland in a couple weeks, but Burrow will be ready to go and they haven't suffered any serious injuries so far. As I've mentioned, this is as good a roster/staff as they've had in a long time (the 2015 team was awesome but we won't go there) so let's play the games.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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Well shit, that was straight out of The Lost Decade. There wasn't even a backbreaking turnover or huge play given up - they just got methodically dominated. Only managing six first downs is almost impossible, but create a combination of rustiness from Burrow missing most of camp/preseason, poor communication, rain and generally just a bad matchup and there you have it. It's too early to hit the panic button, but they face close to a must-win next week at home against the Ravens if they want the 1-seed.
 

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As horrific as Week 1 was, it was easy to write off - they were on the road in the rain against a team they don't match up well against and Burrow was rusty. What happened yesterday was much worse. The ship needed to be righted at home against a divisional opponent missing four key players and they simply shit the bed. The DL got no push against backups at LG/C and a JAG at LG, the secondary was always a step behind and they could never make a key stop or bring Jackson down with the first guy. Chase had a TD knocked away he usually has a vise grip on and Burrow threw a killer red zone pick to start the second half. He then aggravated the calf injury on the final drive as Zac (a great culture guy but not a good playcaller) continues to be fooled by Mike Macdonald.

They'd be in trouble with a fully healthy Burrow as the 1-seed is pretty much gone and the division is in serious trouble. It could be much worse than that without him.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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As horrific as Week 1 was, it was easy to write off - they were on the road in the rain against a team they don't match up well against and Burrow was rusty. What happened yesterday was much worse. The ship needed to be righted at home against a divisional opponent missing four key players and they simply shit the bed. The DL got no push against backups at LG/C and a JAG at LG, the secondary was always a step behind and they could never make a key stop or bring Jackson down with the first guy. Chase had a TD knocked away he usually has a vise grip on and Burrow threw a killer red zone pick to start the second half. He then aggravated the calf injury on the final drive as Zac (a great culture guy but not a good playcaller) continues to be fooled by Mike Macdonald.

They'd be in trouble with a fully healthy Burrow as the 1-seed is pretty much gone and the division is in serious trouble. It could be much worse than that without him.
BAL was actually missing 5 starters (Dobbins, Marcus Williams, Linderbaum, Stanley, and Marlon Humphrey) and then OBJ (not as key) went down too.

BAL adding speed at WR (particularly Flowers) and a modern Offensive Coordinator really changes their offense. I was shocked by how open the middle of the field was for Jackson, and to my eyes, he's really good in that area.

As for Burrow, seems to me that calf injuries aren't something that one should play through as they can lead to achilles, but can CIN afford to sit Burrow for any amount of time? OTOH, Burrow seemed to be bothered by the calf even before the last drive, which might help explain (that and timing) why the offense still seems to be underachieving.
 

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BAL was actually missing 5 starters (Dobbins, Marcus Williams, Linderbaum, Stanley, and Marlon Humphrey) and then OBJ (not as key) went down too.

BAL adding speed at WR (particularly Flowers) and a modern Offensive Coordinator really changes their offense. I was shocked by how open the middle of the field was for Jackson, and to my eyes, he's really good in that area.

As for Burrow, seems to me that calf injuries aren't something that one should play through as they can lead to achilles, but can CIN afford to sit Burrow for any amount of time? OTOH, Burrow seemed to be bothered by the calf even before the last drive, which might help explain (that and timing) why the offense still seems to be underachieving.
I didn't include Dobbins since he's out for the year, doesn't play as important of a position and is rarely healthy anyways. The other four are huge pieces though.

Lamar was just very good going through his reads. He shouldn't have had that time if the Bengals' DL played to their potential but credit the Ravens for getting their backups ready and scheming it up.

I guess the calf was certainly more severe than originally thought. He looked good running and throwing 15 days after the injury, didn't officially practice until 34 days after and the opener was 45 days after but he's clearly not 100% and now could be much worse. I thought the OL was much improved, but the coaching simply isn't good enough for the offense to do anything if Burrow is compromised. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on IR and they try to get him back for Week 8 after the bye.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I wouldn't be surprised if he goes on IR and they try to get him back for Week 8 after the bye.
Just looking at CIN's schedule for the next five weeks: LAR; TEN; ARI; SEA; and Bye - yeah seems like CIN should rest Burrow until then as their second half of the schedule is way more difficult.
 

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A win is a win, I suppose. Burrow clearly isn't right and now they have a short turnaround in a tougher, must-win (they really need AFC wins) game Sunday in Nashville. When in doubt, he fed Chase as Higgins had an awful night with two bad drops before leaving. Donald certainly got his against LG Cordell Volson, but the tackles were excellent in protection (Jonah Williams pitched a clean sheet) and Mixon continues to run hard. Defensively, Hendrickson continues to be a pressure machine, 2022 first-rounder Dax Hill had his coming out party and Logan Wilson added two to his league-leading interception total by a LB since entering the league. Those are the kind of games you have to win over the course of a season, but it didn't give me much optimism they can be a serious contender unless the calf can heal in-season.
 
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Bergs

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Burrow with one good leg is basically Mac Jones' ceiling. He has apparently better OL play than last year, an absolute stud #1, a (usually) reliable #2, and a decent #3.

I would certainly be tempted to sit him as he's not JOE BURROW on one leg. But he can still win a lot of games.
 

Rudy's Curve

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Burrow with one good leg is basically Mac Jones' ceiling. He has apparently better OL play than last year, an absolute stud #1, a (usually) reliable #2, and a decent #3.

I would certainly be tempted to sit him as he's not JOE BURROW on one leg. But he can still win a lot of games.
He just can't plant his back foot for the deep shots and is rather immobile - even with all the other stuff he does, that's not going to cut the mustard long-term with this competition. I would've sat him last night as now he faces a short turnaround in a tougher and more important (they need all wins obviously, but they really need AFC wins) game Sunday, but he was having none of that which I understand. They have to find a way to gut out the next three (at TEN, at ARI, vs. SEA) before the bye and hope it gets better with a couple weeks rest.
 

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I've been dead wrong about almost everything regarding this team, but I was right Monday was not a sign of optimism. Even with Burrow's calf reportedly healing, they put up a second absolute stinker and are now in deep, deep trouble. After the opening drive that moved down the field but stalled inside the 10, they couldn't muster anything the rest of the day.

This is where this staff's limitations are really exposed. There's a reason none of Zac's three offenses before Burrow averaged 20 points a game in modern football, one of which came in something called the American Athletic Conference. As someone on Bengals Twitter said today, he's the Andy Dalton of coaches - when everything around him is good, he looks good but the moment he has to create off-script he's completely overmatched. The offense can't stay on the field at all which has taxed the defense, who have also been a giant disappointment. On top of it, they're playing terrible situational football - Henry lined up in the Wildcat with 10 seconds (or thereabouts, I don't feel like looking it up) left in the half and no timeouts and they sold out for the run when anyone with half a brain knew the jump pass was coming. To top things off, they continued to throw Burrow to the wolves in the fourth when the game was long out of reach. Oh, and Higgins (who's making Andruw Jones' contract year look good) might have a fractured rib.

As everyone knows the Bengals are loathe to fire coaches, but you cannot have Zac trying to compete with the Reids and McDaniels of the world with Burrow on a second contract and the team not able to splurge as much in free agency. He's been outstanding building and changing the culture - they just simply need a new set of ideas on offense and I don't see him taking a back seat there.
 
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Rudy's Curve

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Well, they're still on the respirator. Burrow finally looked like himself, showing an ability to move in the pocket, escape, throw on the move and launch a bomb to Chase, who went into god mode with Higgins out. The run defense is still a problem though and they couldn't get a yard on the goal line or generally move a pretty weak front. They also continue to have trouble letting free rushers up the middle on stunts. We'll see how truly back Burrow is Sunday against a better defense in Seattle who is off a bye, although they've let up at least 27 to everyone not named Daniel Jones. It's another must-win going into the bye with San Francisco and Buffalo on deck. @DanoooME - any thoughts on the Seahawks or updates if Cross and other key guys will be back?
 

DanoooME

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Well, they're still on the respirator. Burrow finally looked like himself, showing an ability to move in the pocket, escape, throw on the move and launch a bomb to Chase, who went into god mode with Higgins out. The run defense is still a problem though and they couldn't get a yard on the goal line or generally move a pretty weak front. They also continue to have trouble letting free rushers up the middle on stunts. We'll see how truly back Burrow is Sunday against a better defense in Seattle who is off a bye, although they've let up at least 27 to everyone not named Daniel Jones. It's another must-win going into the bye with San Francisco and Buffalo on deck. @DanoooME - any thoughts on the Seahawks or updates if Cross and other key guys will be back?
Biggest issues for Seattle right now are secondary and OL. Last week they were missing Coby Bryant, Artie Burns and Tre Brown (basically most of their depth), and lost Jamal Adams 9 plays into his first game back from last year's injury. No updates lately on any of them. The big challenge for them will be covering Chase, since he's such a monster right now. I think Woolen and Witherspoon are capable of minimizing his damage, but I'll be curious to see if they dedicate a safety to his side of the field most of the game. If he gets matched up against anyone else, they definitely need to double him. That becomes harder if Higgins is back, because surprisingly Boyd hasn't seemed to step up at all this season to take advantage of any potential double team. The Hawks have done well at containing the run so far this season, and if they continue to do so, they'll be able to dedicate more resources to the passing game (maybe playing a 4-1-6 with 3 safeties if Adams is healthy and 3 corners, but that hurts the run D). I hope one of Woolen and Witherspoon are put on Chase every play. If they put Chase in the slot, they can move Witherspoon inside on him and stick Michael Jackson (hee-hee) on the outside.

The OL is hurting right now. RT Abe Lucas just had "a procedure" done so he won't be back soon. They are hoping Cross is back this week. That would help immensely. Both guards Lewis and Haynes were injured and out respectively last week, so starting C Evan Brown had to shift to guard and backup C Olu Oluwatimi came in. So it was 4 backups and a starter out of position for most of the game last week and they held up surprisingly well. If Cross does make it back, hopefully they can shift Stone Forsythe to RT, as Jake Curhan has been the worst of the backups. How they will hold up against a much better Bengals front is TBD.
 

johnmd20

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Well, they're still on the respirator. Burrow finally looked like himself, showing an ability to move in the pocket, escape, throw on the move and launch a bomb to Chase, who went into god mode with Higgins out. The run defense is still a problem though and they couldn't get a yard on the goal line or generally move a pretty weak front. They also continue to have trouble letting free rushers up the middle on stunts. We'll see how truly back Burrow is Sunday against a better defense in Seattle who is off a bye, although they've let up at least 27 to everyone not named Daniel Jones. It's another must-win going into the bye with San Francisco and Buffalo on deck. @DanoooME - any thoughts on the Seahawks or updates if Cross and other key guys will be back?
It is crazy how different Burrow looked yesterday. Like, he was hobbled for two months and then healed basically overnight. He was dancing. And it was glorious to watch.
 

Rudy's Curve

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It is crazy how different Burrow looked yesterday. Like, he was hobbled for two months and then healed basically overnight. He was dancing. And it was glorious to watch.
Yep. The setback at the end of the Ravens game probably cost him the last two weeks. Russini tweeted before last week he was looking good and then before this week he'd need more time - maybe her sources suck. There is the obvious caveat yesterday it was the Cardinals, but he looked so much better physically. Hopefully it continues against a Seahawks team with two really good corners and they'll sure as hell need it for the post-bye stretch. The division losses are a killer, but they're still alive there too with Baltimore's loss yesterday.
 

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Biggest issues for Seattle right now are secondary and OL. Last week they were missing Coby Bryant, Artie Burns and Tre Brown (basically most of their depth), and lost Jamal Adams 9 plays into his first game back from last year's injury. No updates lately on any of them. The big challenge for them will be covering Chase, since he's such a monster right now. I think Woolen and Witherspoon are capable of minimizing his damage, but I'll be curious to see if they dedicate a safety to his side of the field most of the game. If he gets matched up against anyone else, they definitely need to double him. That becomes harder if Higgins is back, because surprisingly Boyd hasn't seemed to step up at all this season to take advantage of any potential double team. The Hawks have done well at containing the run so far this season, and if they continue to do so, they'll be able to dedicate more resources to the passing game (maybe playing a 4-1-6 with 3 safeties if Adams is healthy and 3 corners, but that hurts the run D). I hope one of Woolen and Witherspoon are put on Chase every play. If they put Chase in the slot, they can move Witherspoon inside on him and stick Michael Jackson (hee-hee) on the outside.

The OL is hurting right now. RT Abe Lucas just had "a procedure" done so he won't be back soon. They are hoping Cross is back this week. That would help immensely. Both guards Lewis and Haynes were injured and out respectively last week, so starting C Evan Brown had to shift to guard and backup C Olu Oluwatimi came in. So it was 4 backups and a starter out of position for most of the game last week and they held up surprisingly well. If Cross does make it back, hopefully they can shift Stone Forsythe to RT, as Jake Curhan has been the worst of the backups. How they will hold up against a much better Bengals front is TBD.
Seems like Pete is traditionally a pretty tough guy to get the truth from on injuries, so I guess we'll see from the injury report this week. The Bengals finally used Chase like an alpha yesterday as he ran the whole tree - it's amazing what happens when you actually have an ounce of creativity for your best player. Higgins left open the possibility he could be back, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they played it safe with the bye on deck after he went DNP-DNP-LP last week. Trenton Irwin (8-60 yesterday, although he was also responsible for an INT from slipping) would get most of Higgins' snaps again with rookie size/speed dynamo Andrei Iosivas picking up the rest. Boyd's lack of production pretty much mirrors the rest of the offense and they've gotten nothing out of TE as Irv Smith somehow went catchless yesterday. I'm also pretty worried about the Seahawks front vs. the Bengals iOL, who have been pretty awful.

The Bengals' best chance on defense is Hendrickson continuing to be a monster, as he had 2.5 sacks yesterday and six for the year. If Cross can neutralize him though, they're probably in trouble. Hubbard isn't really an edge bender and while Reader can certainly push the pocket, they don't have much quickness inside. The run defense is also still a big issue for a team at full strength and continuity in the front seven who've been pretty good there the last two years, but they got torched again yesterday so I imagine they'll see a healthy dose of Walker and Charbonnet. Their top CB (from the last two years, maybe not anymore) Chidobe Awuzie missed yesterday and they'll need him back as backup slot Jalen Davis got toasted by Hollywood Brown for a TD.

Opening line is Bengals -2.5, although I probably see it going to 3 given how Burrow looked yesterday. The Seahawks are no slouches though and coming off a bye - should be a good one.
 
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johnmd20

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Yep. The setback at the end of the Ravens game probably cost him the last two weeks. Russini tweeted before last week he was looking good and then before this week he'd need more time - maybe her sources suck. There is the obvious caveat yesterday it was the Cardinals, but he looked so much better physically. Hopefully it continues against a Seahawks team with two really good corners and they'll sure as hell need it for the post-bye stretch. The division losses are a killer, but they're still alive there too with Baltimore's loss yesterday.
I would throw out the opponent. It doesn't matter. Joe could actually move yesterday. Up until yesterday, he couldn't move and it was obvious. Yesterday he was quick and spry and was able to get away from the rush and step up and even run.

Love Joe. It was glorious to see.
 

DanoooME

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Seems like Pete is traditionally a pretty tough guy to get the truth on injury updates from, so I guess we'll see from the injury report this week. The Bengals finally used Chase like an alpha yesterday as he ran the whole tree - it's amazing what happens when you actually have an ounce of creativity for your best player. Higgins left open the possibility he could be back, but I also wouldn't be surprised if they played it safe with the bye on deck after he went DNP-DNP-LP last week. Trenton Irwin (8-60 yesterday, although he was also responsible for an INT from slipping) would get most of Higgins' snaps again with rookie size/speed dynamo Andrei Iosivas picking up the rest. Boyd's lack of production pretty much mirrors the rest of the offense and they've gotten nothing out of TE as Irv Smith somehow went catchless yesterday. I'm also pretty worried about the Seahawks front vs. the Bengals iOL, who have been pretty awful.

The Bengals' best chance on defense is Hendrickson continuing to be a monster, as he had 2.5 sacks yesterday and six for the year. If Cross can neutralize him though, they're probably in trouble. Hubbard isn't really an edge bender and while Reader can certainly push the pocket, they don't have much quickness inside. The run defense is also still a big issue for a team at full strength and continuity in the front seven who's been pretty good there the last two years, but they got torched again yesterday so I'd imagine they'll see a healthy dose of Walker and Charbonnet. Their top CB (from the last two years, maybe not anymore) Chidobe Awuzie missed yesterday and they'll need him back as backup slot Jalen Davis got toasted by Hollywood Brown for a TD.

Opening line is Bengals -2.5, although I probably see it going to 3 given how Burrow looked yesterday. The Seahawks are no slouches though and coming off a bye - should be a good one.
The Seahawks pass rush has been hit-or-miss, mostly miss this season. I think you can throw out the Giants game as a total fluke and look at the rest of their games and see the minimal impact they've had. If Jarran Reed is healthy, and if Boye Mafe keeps improving and Nwosu continues to play well and the rest of the guys keep improving, then they can be fearsome, but it's an awful lot of ifs and none of them are totally dependable week-to-week right now. It could be that they've been so focused on the run D that they weren't trying to have an improved pass rush and then got to the Giants and didn't have to worry about the run so they let loose the pass rush Kraken and racked up record numbers. Didn't realize the Bengals rush numbers are even worse than the Giants, so maybe nothing I just wrote applies. We'll have to see.

Cincy should move Hendrickson around, especially if Cross is active. With Lucas out, the right side is going to be an issue even if they put Forsythe there. Although Waldron has been creative lately about providing help on the edge with TE/RB rubs, which is nice to see since Waldron's predecessors never seemed to give the tackles help when they needed it. Seattle's offense relies on Geno making good decisions, which he's been okay at, but not great. Pressure does seem to cause him problems.
 

Rudy's Curve

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I would throw out the opponent. It doesn't matter. Joe could actually move yesterday. Up until yesterday, he couldn't move and it was obvious. Yesterday he was quick and spry and was able to get away from the rush and step up and even run.

Love Joe. It was glorious to see.
The most glaring example might have been the sack on third and goal on the second drive where he was able to sidestep a couple guys in a phone booth before finally going down. It certainly opens up all the possibilities if he's truly healthy, although they've got other problems (the run defense is atrocious and they seem to give up a free rusher on a stunt every game) they need to fix. They need to realistically head into Baltimore at 5-4 which means winning this week and probably beating Buffalo and Houston at home, since going into San Francisco even off a bye and with a healthy Burrow is quite the mountain.
 

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The Seahawks pass rush has been hit-or-miss, mostly miss this season. I think you can throw out the Giants game as a total fluke and look at the rest of their games and see the minimal impact they've had. If Jarran Reed is healthy, and if Boye Mafe keeps improving and Nwosu continues to play well and the rest of the guys keep improving, then they can be fearsome, but it's an awful lot of ifs and none of them are totally dependable week-to-week right now. It could be that they've been so focused on the run D that they weren't trying to have an improved pass rush and then got to the Giants and didn't have to worry about the run so they let loose the pass rush Kraken and racked up record numbers. Didn't realize the Bengals rush numbers are even worse than the Giants, so maybe nothing I just wrote applies. We'll have to see.

Cincy should move Hendrickson around, especially if Cross is active. With Lucas out, the right side is going to be an issue even if they put Forsythe there. Although Waldron has been creative lately about providing help on the edge with TE/RB rubs, which is nice to see since Waldron's predecessors never seemed to give the tackles help when they needed it. Seattle's offense relies on Geno making good decisions, which he's been okay at, but not great. Pressure does seem to cause him problems.
Mixon has actually shown some juice, but the holes just mostly haven't been there. I'd like to see them run left more as that's what they're paying 360-pound Orlando Brown for and LG Cordell Volson is a better run blocker than pass protector. Brown can certainly be beat by speed, but it just takes a long time to get around him and Burrow is usually so good getting rid of it quickly. Pete is probably licking his chops too as the Bengals have had some bad miscommunications leading to free rushers.

Hendrickson and Hubbard strictly play sides, unfortunately, and the depth they expected hasn't been there. Joseph Ossai is still working his way back from a Week 3 preseason injury on the worst field in the world (great job guys!), Cam Sample hasn't taken the leap some expected and first-rounder Myles Murphy is a project. Geno threw two pick-sixes in his only start against the Bengals, which was in Cincy - it was 10 years ago but they could certainly use some of that magic again.

Edit: I doubt they'll catch the Seahawks sleepwalking either - this is pretty incredible:

View: https://twitter.com/ByJayMorrison/status/1711411499741163789
 
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It's one they had to have, but given it didn't win them anything that's a wholly unsatisfying win in terms of their long-term prospects. They were outgained by a yard and a half per play (they have two of the three biggest negative yards per play differentials by winning teams) and the offense was a complete zero after the first two drives, one of which they were going to punt before Seattle jumped the hard count. Burrow looked fine physically, but something is still off as he's missing throws he'd normally make and Higgins hasn't made any of the plays that made them dangerous. They were saved by the defense who allowed three points in four goal-to-go situations in the second half, but letting a relatively uninspiring offense in the red zone that often isn't great.

They're not dead at 3-3 at the bye, but their body of work has been extremely unimpressive and they're 0-3 in the conference/0-2 in the division. Hopefully the week off allows them to figure things out (the offensive staff certainly seemed ticked off in their Monday media and somehow they can't stop the run despite the same front seven) before a trip to San Francisco. It's not a must-win, but if they don't then the next week against Buffalo probably is.
 

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Yeah, I'd say that's more like it. They were an extremely advantageous position with external factors (off bye, Niners traveling off short week and going into bye, no Deebo/Trent Williams), but that's still a two-TD win on the road against a really good team. Burrow was flawless, the protection mostly held up and they even got the running game clicking against an excellent front while coming up with another red zone turnover on defense. This gets them to 4-3 and they have five of the next seven at home beginning with Sunday night against the Bills. Unfortunately, they're still 0-3 in the conference so they really need these AFC games coming up.
 
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They're back - it's just a bad matchup for the Bills with their ability to drop a bunch into coverage because of Reader controlling the line of scrimmage which allows them to play light boxes and bait Allen into bad throws. Burrow started on fire and looks to be fully back - some stupid penalties and the Bills adjusting in the second half took points off the board but it was enough as Higgins finally broke out in a game where they took away Chase and Irv Smith Jr. came off death's door with a big TD catch. The defense continues to be really opportunistic with another red zone turnover as Anarumo did an excellent job adjusting after the first drive and Cam Taylor-Britt continued his ascension into upper-tier CB status.

That's four in a row now, although they're still technically in last place despite being in the playoffs at the moment. Next week is a massive trap game as the Texans come to town - they're not bad but the Bengals are coming off two huge wins and have the Ravens looming Thursday.
 

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This year's Bengals reminds me of some of the Pats teams that would start slow but slowly get rolling. Look out, AFC.
 

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This year's Bengals reminds me of some of the Pats teams that would start slow but slowly get rolling. Look out, AFC.
It took a little time, but a healthy Burrow is starting to make what I said about this being their best roster ever (the 2015 team probably had more good players but the QB difference is so big) come to fruition. There's still a long way to go, though - they have a bigtime trap game this week against a spunky Texans team and then a Thursday nighter in Baltimore which they have to have for any shot of winning the division. They can obviously win on the road in the playoffs, but given no one's done it three times in front of fans since the '10 Packers I'd rather not have to go down that route.
 
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Man, that was a total gut punch. The trap game fear was absolutely realized as the running lanes were gigantic for Singletary and coverage bust after coverage bust let Noah Brown have 172 yards. The offense went completely dormant for the half after the first drive as Burrow had no time to throw with the interior getting killed. They finally got going in the second half with a vintage Burrow escape for a bomb to Chase, but then he threw two bad picks which should've killed the comeback until Stroud inexplicably threw an almost pick-six that got them back in the game. All the above would've been forgotten if Boyd simply just caught a ball that hit him right in the hands for a likely game-winning TD, but they had to settle for a FG. Then on Houston's final drive, the Bengals' turnovers at all costs mentality bit them as they let Brown get a ton of YAC into FG range trying to force a fumble instead of just tackling him. The street kicker barely made it from 38 - there's no way he was making it from 50 which is where it should've been.

As losses usually do, they underscored a lot of problems:

- Zac went stupidly conservative after the first drive. You have Joe Burrow.
- They have no speed outside Chase and an unathletic OL. That makes it kind of difficult to run toss sweeps but they repeatedly insist on it.
- Said unathletic OL is a problem now. Orlando Brown's groin injury has killed his ability to anchor, Cordell Volson isn't an NFL starter, Ted Karras is JAG and Alex Cappa has had an uncharacteristically bad year. Jonah Williams has been by far their best OL and he's a FA after the year.
- Someone can correct me if I'm wrong - it feels like SEC DTs hit at a higher rate than any other group. Somehow, the Bengals used a Day 2 pick last year on Zach Carter who might be the worst DT in the league. I was excited for him as he made a few plays down the stretch last year and bulked up to become a fulltime 3T, but he's just a complete zero out there. Folks here can attest to exactly how good Barmore is or isn't, but the Bengals turned that trade down into three guys with a combined total of two good starts in three years if we're being generous. Their middle rounds drafting is going to have to get much better if they want to keep this window open after Burrow/Chase get paid.
- I liked taking a chance on Nick Scott once Vonn Bell left - he was already about to be 28, but he's athletic and didn't have a ton of mileage. PFF isn't everything, but he's dead last in safety rankings and I don't think the eye test is much better. They really have to start working in third-rounder Jordan Battle more and if he takes his lumps, so be it.

There's no time to lick their wounds as they have a huge one in Baltimore Thursday, where they're still alive for the division with the Ravens' inexplicable loss Sunday. Unfortunately they'll probably be without Higgins, Hubbard (they really missed him in the run game) and Hendrickson, who got rolled up on the last play - thankfully it's just a hyperextended knee since it looked worse. I really have no idea how they'll create a pass rush, as they're probably more reliant on one guy than anyone. This could get pretty ugly if they're unable to affect Lamar and Hubbard can't help against the run.
 
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Sad is probably the best way to put it. He had just thrown three darts on that drive too, so I doubt whatever he was wearing the sleeve for off the plane was affecting him - it was an entirely new injury. Of course, the more hits you take the more a fluke thing like that can happen. Priority #1 for the rest of his career has to be building a wall around him. However, they need to completely overhaul how they evaluate OL as they completely eschew athleticism up front. This is beyond damning:

1700310084483.png

In 2021, they took Jackson Carman in the second round who may not even live out his rookie deal. Seventeen picks later, the Chiefs took Creed Humphrey. In the sixth round, the Bengals took Trey Hill who might be the single most disposable player in the league (I have no clue how he's still even here). Thirty-six picks later, the Chiefs took Trey Smith. That's how you lose vs. how you sustain dynasties in a nutshell. No more unathletic fourth-round FCS guys needing to start as rookies. Enough.

The biggest disappointment of this year is probably still the defense. I guess living on a bend but don't break mentality the last couple years has finally caught up to them, as they sure as hell break a lot now. They need to beef up the DL depth bigtime next year, and that's before Reader hits free agency - hopefully they can get him back on a short-team deal with similar AAV. It's time to play the kids down the stretch - Myles Murphy has been a project, but let's see what he has so he can make an impact next year. At least they finally made the move at safety as Jordan Battle played almost all the snaps. I think we've seen enough of Nick Scott in stripes.

As shitty as it was, Burrow's injury in 2020 allowed them to get Chase. They should have another chance now to get a real impact player. They also need to use some forward thinking (often a foreign concept for this organization) and tag and trade Higgins for another bite at the apple. A last-place schedule should ostensibly help too, although they have to play KC/PHI anyways and their SOS games are against the AFCE/AFCS/NFCS which can all be toss-up divisions - maybe the Pats will still suck, or they could be right back in the mix with a competent QB. Either way, everything from this point needs to be about evaluating for 2024.
 

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That's awesome.

Although the highlight of that chart is the Bears being right under the "Doing Less With More," banner.

Indeed.
The Bengals have drafted one (1) lineman in the last eleven (11) years who could play - Jonah Williams, and he was a top-11 pick. The last one they drafted outside the first round who could play was Clint Boling. That was on Osama bin Laden's last full day on this planet.

Yeah, it's a problem.
 

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Four years ago in Week 12, the Bengals lost 16-10 to the Steelers at then-Paul Brown Stadium. These were the offensive starters (NSFW):

1701093288417.png

Yesterday in Week 12, the Bengals lost 16-10 to the Steelers at now-Paycor Stadium. Yes, Jake Browning sucks but he's no worse than Ryan Finley and this time they had Ja'Marr Chase, a highly-paid OL and 10 days to prepare against a worse Steeler defense than four years ago. The result was one TD off a long kick return and tipped pass and a garbage time FG. As has been repeatedly shown when Burrow is out or compromised, this staff is completely incapable of putting anything together. They ran a finished Mixon eight times while rookie fifth-rounder Chase Brown didn't get a carry and they only targeted Ja'Marr Chase six times.

Of course, they had a very limited number of plays because the defense gave up Pittsburgh's first 400-yard game since the Trump administration (and first on the road/in front of fans since 2018!). The second unit DL has to be the worst in the league and one-time star CB Chidobe Awuzie looks finished off an ACL tear. Whatever hope there was of going on a run and grabbing a playoff spot is long gone - you don't actually tank NFL games, but it would certainly behoove them to lose out with this product.
 
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Well, I'll be damned. This was looking like a classic blowout for a season in freefall after Browning took an inexplicable sack on fourth down and the Jaguars marched right down the field. Sometimes adversity can breed innovation though, as they finally opened up the offense for Browning and got the run game (hello Chase Brown) clicking. Just please dump the trick plays (Boyd's interception might've been the dumbest thing I've ever seen south of Meyers) and this offense might be something. The defense isn't good enough for them to do anything serious, but thankfully they'll at least be a watchable product down the stretch.
 

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Look what we have here. It's amazing what actually playing good young players can do, as Chase Brown reached the second-fastest speed by any ball carrier this season en route to taking a screen to the house. They've completely redesigned the offense for Browning, using play-action under center much more which has made the line look a lot better. Burrow obviously prefers heavy shotgun, so it'll be interesting to see how they combine approaches next year. With Higgins back, Tanner Hudson giving them a boost at TE and Brown providing a whole new dimension in the backfield, the offense can still be dangerous. They'll face a tough closing stretch of defenses though with the Vikings, Steelers, Chiefs and Browns on the docket. The much-maligned defense turned in their best performance of the year, holding the Colts to just one touchdown as Hendrickson made it a long day for impressive rookie LT Bernhard Raimann and Chidobe Awuzie (who I thought was finished off an ACL tear) is rounding into form.

They're part of six teams at 7-6 for two spots, but unfortunately their conference record will hurt them in multi-team tiebreakers. They need to realistically win three of the last four to get in and given one is a trip to Arrowhead (as pedestrian as the Chiefs have been at times), they really have to beat Minnesota at home this week and then win in Pittsburgh.
 

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Man, they just don't quit. It was looking like the Browning magic would finally end down 14 in the second half after an awful pick against a team who'd allowed one TD in their last 15 quarters, but he stood tough against some heavy pressure and Higgins went into god mode after having a horrible game (and season, for that matter). I certainly haven't always been the biggest fan of Zac the OC, but there's zero doubt he has the locker room and they play extremely hard. Unfortunately, an already terrible run defense lost DJ Reader (by far their best run defender) for the season - they might actually give up six yards a carry now. Chase also sprained the AC joint in his shoulder which caused him to leave the game and not return. There's hope he can play through it, but who knows how effective he'll be.

Unfortunately, Sunday played out terribly for them with the Texans and Browns pulling games out of their asses. I'd say going 2-1 (at PIT, at KC, CLE) should get them in, but there's no guarantee given their terrible conference record - they'll need to be in a tiebreaker with only some combo of BUF/JAC/IND (teams they beat) to win one, otherwise they'll lose. It all starts with a must-win Saturday in Pittsburgh - the Steelers aren't good and are reeling, but they're at home and gave Browning fits a month ago in his first start.
 

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The Bengals have shown the last two years they can function for a little bit without Burrow or Chase. It appears they cannot without both though as Browning turned back into a pumpkin at the worst possible time with three interceptions, two of which were pretty ghastly. The bigger story though is the defense, which reached a new low yesterday in turning Mason Rudolph into an All-Pro. It's just impossible to overstate how bad they've been and how many massive disappointments there are there across the board. 2022 first-rounder Dax Hill is at the top of that list, as he was supposed to be a pretty pro-ready prospect coming out and got a year to essentially redshirt. He took an awful angle on the Pickens slant TD (which should've been a 10-yard gain), taking out his own player to open up acres of open field. A run defense which was already awful with DJ Reader was predictably even worse, as they made even Najee Harris look good. Burrow hasn't been fully healthy for any of them, but 0-5 in the division just can't happen.

That should all but do it, as they'll need to win out in Kansas City and at home vs. the Browns and get some help since they have six conference losses. It was a nice and completely unexpected ride with Browning, but it was probably always destined to end like this.
 

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While the season essentially ended when Burrow went down, it officially ended Sunday in Kansas City. Burrow certainly would've given them a much better chance than Browning, but I'm not sure even he could've carried a defense this bad in January. They also didn't help Browning with offensive personnel either, as Trenton Irwin (who offers nothing) played all the snaps when Higgins went down again instead of rookies Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas. Their short-yardage failures also bit them again when they got stuffed at the 6 early in the second half which changed the game for good.

I'll give a breakdown of all the significant contributors next week - the iDL needs a giant overhaul and they could be replacing two starting WR and OL. Burrow and Chase will still be the foundational pieces and it helps to have a last-place schedule (which isn't necessarily predictive, but I'm pretty sure the Panthers at least will still suck), but they have a lot of work to do to be playing deep into January and February again.
 

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I guess the silver lining is they wouldn't have made the playoffs even if they had won the KC game since Buffalo and Pittsburgh won out the last two weeks. Thus concludes probably the most disappointing season in team history and there have been a lot of them. This officially starts a really important offseason, as they have a ton of cap space to play with but also many needs to fill. Here's how I see the guys who played significant snaps going forward:

QB

Joe Burrow - season went awry two days into camp with severe calf strain before signing extension to be the face of the franchise for a long time. Couldn't do anything for the first month and then was his old self for five weeks (this is probably the play of the year) before season-ending wrist injury. Should be fine for OTAs.

Jake Browning - provided way more than expected. A legit backup who will be back as an exclusive rights free agent.

RB

Joe Mixon - still has some juice left but I wonder how much more he'll have heading into year eight/his age 28 season. They badly need someone who can make it close to a 50-50 split as he took on way too much of the load.

Chase Brown - he could be that guy. Rookie fifth-rounder was buried the first six weeks and supposed to have a big role coming out of the bye before a hamstring injury in practice cost him a month. Showed an ability to make people miss when he got a chance and elite top-end speed (he reached a speed here only bested by DK Metcalf this year). Really excited to see him finally get to work with Burrow.

WR

Ja'Marr Chase - rock-solid as usual before playing through a shoulder injury the last two weeks. Elite WR1 who is now extension-eligible and seems open to it - they need to get it done.

Tee Higgins - outside of a couple games (and one amazing catch), it was a nightmare contract year filled with injuries, drops and penalties. He will almost certainly be tagged and I'd imagine play out the year - no one will give the Bengals what they want and it's tough to see an extension given his agent and the Bengals haven't exactly worked well together.

Tyler Boyd - the writing was on the wall when they drafted Charlie Jones last year and this is now it. Turns 30 next season and will be elsewhere.

Trenton Irwin - a success story last year but was badly exposed with more snaps as he cannot create any separation. Will be a free agent and hope he lands elsewhere so the staff isn't tempted to keep playing him.

Charlie Jones - Rookie fourth-rounder's season was derailed by early thumb injury and never got off the ground outside of a punt return TD. Still believe he can be the answer in the slot, but this year didn't provide it.

Andrei Iosivas - Rookie sixth-round size/speed dynamo showed a knack for the end zone, scoring four TDs in a very limited number of snaps. He should fill the missing Chase and Higgins snaps.

TE

Irv Smith Jr. - a total failure of a one-year experiment who ended up a healthy inactive down the stretch. Next.

Drew Sample - former second-round pick never lived up to his draft status but found his role as an excellent pass protector next to the QB. Would love to have him back.

Tanner Hudson - journeyman came out of nowhere and did what Smith was supposed to do. Will turn 30 next year but would like to have him back for depth to go with Sample and a draft pick.

OL

Orlando Brown Jr. - midseason groin injury limited his ability to anchor effectively and will always give up his share of pressure but I thought was fine overall and good in the run game. Turns 28 in May and entrenched at LT for the foreseeable future.

Cordell Volson - athletic limitations will always cap his effectiveness but played well down the stretch when they switched to more under center stuff. Would like to see them bring in competition though as he heads into his third year.

Ted Karras - locker room leader struggled a bit early but played much better as the year went on. Under contract for one more year at age 31.

Alex Cappa - season pretty much mirrored his interior linemates. Not elite, but an above-average starter under contract for two more years at age 29.

Jonah Williams - converted from LT despite being unhappy about it and had a strong year on the right side heading into free agency at 26. I think they'd like to have him back, but he may price himself out in a weak OL market.

DE

Trey Hendrickson - will never be a good run defender, but absolute force of a pass rusher who turned in a career year. Under contract for two more years and just turned 29.

Sam Hubbard - wasn't anything like his old self as he played through foot/ankle injuries and all the snaps plus playing deep into the playoffs the previous two years definitely took their toll. Under contract for two more years, but really needs to have his snaps reduced as he enters age 29 season.

Myles Murphy - first-rounder was expectedly raw as a 21-year old rookie at a position with a hard transition, but flashed a fair number of times in limited snaps and mostly held up against the run. Excited for year two as he gets stronger and refines his pass rush arsenal.

Cam Sample - Hubbard-lite player started strong but faded down the stretch. Just a rotational piece as he heads into final year of rookie deal.

Joseph Ossai - one of the biggest disappointments. Was expected to be DE3 and the nickel rusher but suffered an ankle injury in preseason on the FedEx Field grass and never got off the ground. They need him to return to form in final year of rookie deal.

DT

DJ Reader - linchpin of the defense still played at a high level but was undone by lack of support around him. Unfortunately suffered third significant injury in four years late in the year as he heads to free agency turning 30 in July. I'd love to get him back on a one-year deal now to see if he can rehab his value, but I wonder if his best days are behind him.

BJ Hill - like Hubbard, the last two seasons really took their toll as his pass and run effectiveness declined. Needs to have snaps reduced as he heads into final year of deal at age 29.

Zach Carter - the hope was he could be the guy in his second year who could take the load off Hill. He was anything but - a complete wet paper bag against the run who also provided no pass rush (hell of a combo!). Should be fighting for his life for a spot next year.

Jay Tufele - 2022 waiver claim made some splash plays last year but was absolutely trampled in the run game along with Carter this year. They also allowed 10.73 NY/A when he was on the field - how is that humanly possible?

Josh Tupou - oldest defensive holdover from Marvin Lewis era has always been a one-down player. This position needs a huge overhaul - tough to see him coming back at 30.

LB

Logan Wilson - signed four-year extension at age 27 before season but had rough year. Coverage metrics were particularly bad and need him to bounce back. The poor DL play certainly made his life harder.

Germaine Pratt - signed three-year deal before age 27 year and, like Wilson, had a bad year. Has a knack for big plays but also got knocked on his ass a ton in the run game. Hopefully can bounce back with a better DL.

CB

Cam Taylor-Britt - probably the brightest spot on defense outside of Hendrickson. A bit of a gambler, but ascended into an upper-echelon corner in his second year before an ankle injury cost him a month at the end.

DJ Turner - Rookie second-round speedster started hot but faded pretty hard down the stretch. Needs to probably bulk up a little bit but should be a solid starter.

Chidobe Awuzie - 2021 FA played at an elite level for a year and a half before tearing ACL midway through 2022 and never bounced back. There's hope as he gets further away from injury, but will also turn 29 as he heads into free agency. I wouldn't hate having him back on a one-year deal if he's willing to take it.

Mike Hilton - started off a little slow but returned to being maybe the best slot corner in the league. It's a bit of a concern for guys his stature (5'9/185) as they get up there (he turns 30 in March), but a bargain at $6 million heading into final year of four-year deal.

S

Dax Hill - probably the single biggest disappointment. I was very high on him as he was a productive college player who tested well on his way to becoming a first-rounder in 2022, but he's just not a deep safety in the role Jessie Bates was so good at and there were tons of communication breakdowns and blown assignments in the secondary. They need to find a way to use his talents better around the line of scrimmage.

Jordan Battle - rookie third-rounder came on very strong down the stretch after playing sparingly the first couple months. Has more of a box safety build but can handle the deep middle better than Hill. If those guys are used properly, I'm excited to see what they can do in a full year together.

Nick Scott - I had hope for FA signee as a late bloomer, but like Smith he just wasn't it before being benched for Battle. Feels like a pretty likely cut candidate.

ST

Evan McPherson - missed a few bombs but was perfect inside 50 (including PATs) and refined the inconsistency that plagued him last year. Eligible for an extension and certainly hope they get one done.

Brad Robbins - maybe the rookie punter transition is harder than I thought (@IdiotKicker?) but my god was he awful. Dead last in punter EPA by a mile which is beyond unacceptable for a draft pick. Need to bring in veteran competition at minimum because they just cannot have this again.

Zac said yesterday he expects the entire staff to be back if they don't get promotions elsewhere. Lou Anarumo's chance at being a HC has probably gone by the wayside with the performance of his unit this year, leaving OC Brian Callahan and QB coach Dan Pitcher as the most likely candidates. I can't say I'd mind if Callahan got a job and they promoted Pitcher. They also get a last-place schedule that has Carolina and Tennessee, but the Pats could be a quick turnaround candidate and they still have to go to Arrowhead. They mostly need to just play better in the division, as they were 0-5 in games of significance. Burrow wasn't fully healthy for any, but he wouldn't have stopped them from getting bullied badly in the trenches which has to be the biggest focus.
 
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Fantastic breakdown! Thank you.
I appreciate you and anyone taking the time to read it and provide feedback. While it was a severe disappointment given I thought there was a good chance they'd be playing in February, they still had a winning record (the last game was a farce, but whatever) with only five full games of a healthy Burrow against one of the toughest schedules ever. If Burrow can finally have a clean offseason (he still hasn't yet) and hold up for the season, I fully believe they'll be legitimate contenders again next year. That being said, they need to find an actual TE1 (no more ignoring it in the draft and going bargain basement shopping) and beef up the DL depth tremendously.
 
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