“See ya next year,” the wise words of a blossoming QB robbed of finishing what he started. Oh 2020, you just continue to be relentless. The football gods had other plans just when things were starting to look up in Cincinnati. In Sunday’s 20-9 losing effort to the Washington Football Team, Cincinnati’s worst nightmare unfortunately came true. Heisman Trophy Winning rookie QB Joe Burrow suffered a torn ACL, MCL and other significant knee injuries in the 3rd Quarter. This ends his potential Rookie of the Year campaign and puts him on the shelf until next season.
It was only a matter of time until injury struck for Burrow. He’s playing behind a nonexistent O-Line that left him in no man’s land all season. Hit after hit, sack after sack, it seemed like Burrow was facing endless pressure. On a dreary D.C. afternoon in an empty stadium, in a game that pretty much meant nothing for the Bengals, the loss of Burrow could not have come at a worse time.
It’s bad enough the Bengals have been plagued by injuries thus far, but now to lose the franchise’s saving grace is a huge blow for Zac Taylor. The Bengals just have really bad luck. The most Cincinnati Bengal thing that could possibly happen, well it happened.
The Bengals made their fourth 1st overall pick in franchise history in the 2020 NFL Draft. It was a pretty damn good one at that. It was pretty clear that the Bengals were in the market for a new QB, and they had a plethora of young studs to choose from. There were speculations they were going to trade the pick to the Dolphins or go after Oregon QB Justin Herbert. They stayed true to their word in the end by taking the LSU living legend in Joe Burrow.
Burrow led the Tigers to a 15-0 season to secure LSU’s first National Championship in 12 years after a 42-25 win over Clemson. He also won the Heisman Trophy and went 1st overall in the NFL Draft. It was a good few months for Joe Burrow.
Burrow has shown he is a true competitor. He led Athens High to three straight playoff appearances and gave the program its first seven playoff victories in school history. He won the Mr. Football Award and was named Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. A four-star football recruit, Burrow even had the school’s football field named in his honor.
So yeah, there’s some pretty big expectations amidst his accolades. He has shown that he is willing to meet those expectations head on. The only problem is it takes 53 men to win a football game. Joe Burrow seemed to be an army of one.
The Injuries Are Adding Up
CB Trae Waynes, acquired in free agency, is expected to miss the majority of the 2020 season following a torn pectoral muscle in training camp. CB Mackenzie Alexander, also acquired in free agency, has had a sew of issues. He was arrested in August for misdemeanor battery after assaulting a man who left his father stranded on a fishing trip. He has also battled nagging injuries all season long. Nose Tackle DJ Reader, yet another free agent pickup, suffered a season-ending quad injury in Week 5.
It is important to add that the Bengals aren’t really known for bringing in free agents. They like to focus on draft picks. Given how it has gone for their free agent acquisitions this season, don’t expect owner Mike Brown to be this generous again any time soon.
It gets better, though. TE C.J. Uzomah tore his Achilles in Week 2, while RB Joe Mixon has missed time with a foot injury. The defense has also been marred by injury, namely Sam Hubbard and Geno Atkins. It got so bad that WR John Ross accepted the idea of playing CB for the Bengals. It seemed like a good idea on paper, given his speed and willingness to help the team. Ross then injured his foot in his first play at cornerback in practice. Only with the Bengals do you get these types of storylines.
Off To A Great Start
What a season thus far for Cincy. Through obstacle after obstacle, Joe Burrow was one of the lone beacons of hope for Bengal faithful. Perhaps the arrival of the “Tiger King” could spearhead a new direction for them.
Through 11 weeks, Burrow had 264 completions for 2,688 yards and was in the running for Rookie of The Year. Burrow had a 13:5 TD:INT ratio and was well on his way to breaking a few rookie passing records. He had already thrown for 300+ yards in five games, a very impressive feat despite Cincinnati’s record. Burrow and rookie WR Tee Higgins have developed a chemistry that should have Bengals fans rejoicing. Palmer had Chad Johnson, Dalton had prime A.J. Green. It looks like Joe Burrow has found his man in former Clemson star Tee Higgins.
Following the news of Burrow’s injury, head coach Zac Taylor gave a pretty lackluster answer regarding his O-Line and its inability to protect their QB.
“So people keep talking about the offensive line without seemingly watching the film from the last four weeks. Again, those guys have done a good job. It’s been a revolving door of players. They’re doing a great job. Joe’s done a good job moving us down the field, and we felt like we were making a lot of progress over the last five weeks. We’re not gonna apologize for any of that,” Taylor explained to the press.
Zac Taylor knows just as well as anyone that Burrow’s offensive line is practically invisible. The Bengals coaching staff and front office need to give Joe an O-Line that won’t leave him on his back after every play.
Where To Go From Here?
First and foremost, cut Bobby Hart. For Bengals diehards, please do them this favor. Hart, when he is not dealing with injuries, is getting burnt off the line by practically every defense he has played against. Calais Campbell and the Ravens made a fool of Cincy’s O-line, especially Hart. Even double teams couldn’t stop Campbell, who I understand is a monster on defense. But at least make it look like you tried to stop him. They need to focus on rebuilding the offensive line. They can’t wait until Burrow is in a wheelchair from the amount of punishment he has taken.
With Joe Burrow out, they might have a chance for a top-5 pick in the next draft. Ryan Finley looked bad after taking over for Burrow, so the Bengals can abandon the idea of some heroic playoff run.
Cincinnati sits at third in many NFL draft projections. If they can focus on nabbing Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, that could be a major step in the right direction. They should also trade A.J. Green for some draft capital. Although he has the second most TD receptions in franchise history, Green’s best days are behind him. He could still have a few solid years in him, though. Trade him to a contender for a few picks to help our offensive line, and while you’re at it, ship John Ross somewhere too. We’ve already seen Burrow’s capabilities with limited time to throw the ball. Give him some protection though, and the Bengals could make some noise in the AFC North.
The Bengas defense is spotty. Some games they show up and others they look like they wish the NFL had a mercy rule. This should also be a focus of concern, but if everyone can come back healthy, they have an exciting foundation to build upon.
The Path To Success
Watching Burrow go down was a kick in the face for Bengals fans. Finally, after years of mediocrity and losing playoff game after playoff game, Cincinnati had something to feel confident about. A young gun QB, a new face donning the iconic number 85, and a number of offseason signings had Bengals fans rejoicing. Long being the laughingstock of the NFL has seemed to mount frustration for Bengals fans. Constantly being called the “Bungles” or being made fun of for being the only NFL team without an indoor training facility should hopefully light a fire for Cincy.
It’s hard not to root for the Bengals, given they’ve gone nearly three decades without winning a playoff game and remain one of the NFL’s 12 franchises to have never won a Super Bowl. Hopefully, when Burrow recovers and if Zac Taylor decides to focus on restructuring his O-Line, if he even has a job, then maybe Bengals fans can support their team with pride instead of frustration.