The AFC North will look to run the ball early and often. However, the Cincinnati Bengals appear to be a change of pace. Drafting Ja’mar Chase, and runiting him with LSU teammate Joe Burrow shows commitment to throwing the ball. Burrow did exactly that with LSU’s championship team. Running a variation of the Air Raid is what made Burrow and Chase top five picks. With the newly formed trio of Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, Burrow has good options in front of him.
More on the offense
Protection will be key. Jonnah Williams is flying under the radar after missing time with injury. The former Alabama first rounder is the on paper left tackle starter. Hometown boy Jackson Carman will be the right guard. Carman was drafted in the second round from Clemson. He also has experience with playing tackle. After that is where things get dicey. Tackle D’Ante Smith was taken in the fourth round from East Carolina. In the sixth, center Trey Hill from Georgia was selected as well. Hill is sitting behind starter Trey Hopkins and former first rounder Billy Price. At best, Hill may be the backup if he beats Price out in camp. Smith is currently the backup right tackle to Riley Reiff who is on the decline at age 32. Left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is also a question mark at age 30.
Joe Mixon is overrated, there I said it. The rest of the running back room won’t wow anybody. The next three guys on the depth chart are Samaje Perine, Trayveon Williams, and rookie sixth round pick Chris Evans from Michigan. Williams has burst, but has become an after thought since missing his rookie year. Evans could draw some consideration. The tight end spot is also a question mark. Thaddeus Moss also missed his rookie year, but he proved to be a reliable tight end for Burrow in college. His dad was kind of famous too and he has a similar skill set.
The hunters-DBs and LBs
All indications point to a 4-3 front. Most of the draft picks were spent on that side of the ball. The secondary has become more interesting with the addition of Chidobe Awuzie from Dallas to pair with fellow corner Trae Waynes. Vonn Bell will return at strong safety. Jessie Bates is also back as the free safety. Waynes is the oldest in the young secondary at 28. The Bengals did not draft any defensive backs but added a few in free agency. A couple of those players are Eli Apple and Riccardo Allen.
Luckily this is a very young defense with room to grow. The projected starting linebackers were all drafted by the Bengals in the third and fourth rounds in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Logan Wilson is the top option on the weak side. Germaine Pratt is in the middle. Akeem Davis-Gaither is on the strong side. This will be an interesting group to watch.
In the trenches
The Bengals drafted four defensive linemen. Joseph Ossai was the highest end taken by the team in the third round from Texas. Cameron Sample was taken in round four from Tulane. Tyler Shelvin was the lone defensive tackle drafted in round four from LSU. Finally, Kansas State end Wyatt Hubert was taken in round seven. Sample is listed right behind Sam Hubbard, and could be rotated in regularly.
Osaai is listed right behind new addition Trey Hendrickson. He is in a similar situation. Shelvin has a chance to beat out Mike Daniels as the backup to Larry Ogunjobi. DJ Reader can probably rest comfortably as a starter at DT. Hubert as an uphill battle to climb to factor into the defensive rotation and will probably have to start on special teams.
Speaking of special teams, Florida kicker Evan McPherson was drafted in the fifth round. Give the team credit, they are taking steps in the right direction. Look for the Bengals to make some noise in the jungle.
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