As far as 2-14 teams go, the Bengals weren’t exactly the worst 2-14 team we’ve seen in the NFL.
But… they weren’t a very good team either. And at times, they not only looked bad but they were almost hard to stomach as well.
(Which is an eerily similar description to Cincinnati’s famous Skyline Chili.)
The 2019 season ushered in a new beginning to the Queen City, as Zac Taylor was hired from the Los Angeles Rams to take over for Bengals’ lifer Marvin Lewis who was fired after roughly 40 years coaching in Cincinnati.
The aforementioned Taylor got his big break when Bengals owner Mike Brown was carousing the LinkedIn connections from Sean McVay and happened to land on his profile.
The rest is history.
So what went wrong for a Bengals team that wasn’t expected to be picking first in the draft?
A few things created a lot of problems for Cincinnati. The biggest issue the Bengals faced in 2019 came with their offensive line. The Bengals o-line could have been swapped out with an Ohio State Fair turnstile and you’d be none the wiser.
Per Pro Football Focus, only two teams in the league (Rams and Dolphins) had a worse offensive line than the Bengals did last season.
Cincinnati was without 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams for the entire season, forcing the Bengals to turn to the likes of Cordy Glenn, Andre Smith, and John Jerry to protect Andy Dalton’s blindside.
Naturally, this didn’t go very well.
Andy Dalton, to his credit, did not play the worst football of his career. Doubly impressive considering the Bengals were also without their franchise-player A.J. Green for the entire season as well. Bengal wideouts John Ross and Auden Tate also missed several games due to injury.
The shoddy offensive line also hampered Joe Mixon’s ability to get a consistent running game going, as Mixon would not hit 100 yards rushing in a game until Week 10 in a blowout loss to the Ravens.
Mixon finished the season strong for the Bengals, rushing for 494 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last four weeks of the season. Prior to that, Mixon had only 643 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns in 12 games.
Defensively in 2019, the Bengals were dreadful.
Per Football Outsiders, the Bengals ranked 3oth in defensive DVOA, including 28th against the pass. They surrendered the most rushing yards in football, giving up nearly 150 yards a game on the ground.
The data backs up the results. Time and time again, the Bengals defense would surrender big plays and an abundance of yardage. This would put the Bengals offense in a terrible situation given all their issues on the offensive line, and the Bengals would not have much of a chance to hang around for the entire game to pull off the win, as hard as they may have tried.
Free Agents Who Somehow Got Talked Into Signing Here
|DT D.J. Reader||Texans|
|CB Trae Waynes||Vikings|
|G Xavier Su’a-Filo||Cowboys|
|CB Mackensie Alexander||Vikings|
|LB Josh Bynes||Ravens|
|S Vonn Bell||Saints|
|CB LeShaun Sims||Titans|
|WR Mike Thomas||Rams|
Franchise Tag aka One-Year Prison Sentence
|WR A.J. Green||Signed Tender|
Players Fortunate to Escape Cincinnati
|DT Andrew Billings||Browns|
|QB Andy Dalton||Cowboys|
|TE Tyler Eifert||Jaguars|
|S Clayton Fejedelem||Dolphins|
|OT Cordy Glenn||N/A (Free Agent)|
|CB Dre Kirkpatrick||N/A (Free Agent)|
|CB Tony McRae||Lions|
|LB LaRoy Reynolds||Falcons|
|LB Nick Vigil||Chargers|
Bengals 2020 Offensive Preview
The Bengals reward for their pain came with the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Bengals then selected LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with that selection, bringing Burrow back to the state of Ohio where he once dominated at the high-school ranks.
Burrow joins the Bengals after having the greatest season in college football history.
That statement does not come with hyperbole either.
Burrow led the LSU Tigers to their first National Championship since 2007, while compiling stats that you would only see in an NCAA Football 14 dynasty.
Here’s what Burrow did in 2019.
- 5671 yards passing
- 6055 yards of total offense
- NCAA single-season record 60 touchdown passes
- NCAA single-season record 202.0 passer rating
- Five touchdowns rushing
- Maxwell Award Winner
- Heisman Trophy Winner
- And he was filmed doing this after smacking Clemson around for four quarters.
To say the Bengals don’t have high hopes for their new quarterback after the Andy Dalton era would be quite the understatement.
All things considered, Burrow is coming into a situation that’s actually not that bad for a #1 overall pick.
The Bengals will have A.J. Green back at WR, where alongside Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Auden Tate and former Clemson star Tee Higgins, the Bengals actually have quite a bit of weapons for Burrow to get the ball to.
Even more importantly, the Bengals will also have Jonah Williams back at LT, who gets to pull a Ben Simmons and have his rookie year come in his second season. The Bengals also added veteran guard Xavier Su’a-Filo in free agency to replace released John Miller.
All eyes will be on the inexperienced head coach Zac Taylor to try to work some of that Sean McVay like magic on his young Bengals offense in 2020.
However, if there is cause for concern for the Bengals improving on the offensive side of the ball in 2020, beyond that of their offensive line anyway, it would be how quickly Burrow is able to pick up the offense considering how abbreviated the offseason will be due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bengals 2020 Defensive Preview
The Bengals rarely spend money in free-agency, but in 2020 Mike Brown went deep into the Bengals coffers to sign defensive-tackle D.J. Reader and cornerback Trae Waynes to big deals.
The addition of Reader (four-year, $53 million) is especially noteworthy, as he will play alongside eight-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lawson on the Bengals defensive line.
The Bengals big issue in 2019 on the defensive side of the ball came in their secondary, as they were constantly picked apart by offenses throughout the season.
Cincinnati turned to free agency to try to remedy some of this, signing Vikings’ castaways Trae Waynes (three-year, $42 million) and Mackensie Alexander (four-year, $4.31 million), alongside former Saints safety Vonn Bell (three-year, $18 million).
The Bengals other weakness on defense a year ago came at linebacker, so naturally the team decided to select three linebackers in the draft this year, with Logan Wilson (3rd round) and Akeem Davis-Gaither (4th round) expected to produce the most.
The defensive has been revamped and has seen a lot of changes from a season ago. Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will need to improve the Bengals fortunes on this side of the ball for them to have any chance of competing in a suddenly stacked AFC North division.
Bengals 2020 Outlook & Prediction
This is going to be a really fun team in a few years, but they’re not quite ready for primetime just yet. Joe Burrow has franchise quarterback potential and the Bengals offense is ripe with talent at key skill positions.
The Bengals offensive line and holes on defense though will be too much to overcome with a rookie quarterback in a loaded division.
Look for Cincinnati to improve, but in an offseason disrupted by a pandemic and practices being all sorts of choppy, we expect the young QB to have some growing pains early before becoming more comfortable in his new digs.
Bengals 2020 Projection: 4-12, 4th AFC North
Bengals 2020 Betting Preview
From a betting perspective, we would lean on the following futures bets involving the Bengals:
- Under 5.5 wins; (+115) FanDuel Sportsbook
When looking over the Bengals schedule, we see 4-5 wins at best. With the plus money value on this, we are taking the under on the Bengals win total for 2020.
- Joe Burrow to win Offensive Rookie of the Year; (+225) FanDuel Sportsbook
After Kansas City RB Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season due to health concerns about the COVID-19 virus, that made Burrow’s path to the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award slightly more daunting as Chiefs’ rookie RB Clyde Helaire-Edwards finds himself in a position to start for the Super Bowl Champions. We still like Burrow’s chances to win this award though, as he figures to start the entire season barring injury.
- Bengals to finish in 4th Place AFC North; (-250) DraftKings Sportsbook
The juice on this is a bit steep, but we love this bet. The Bengals are on the upswing, but they will need the teams in front of them to get a rash of key injuries for them to have a realistic chance at winning enough games to get out of the AFC North basement.
- Exact Order of Finish AFC North (Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Bengals); (+160) FanDuel Sportsbook
If the -250 price on the Bengals finishing in last place in the division is a bit too pricy for your liking, you can also go this direction and project the order of finish in the AFC North. At +160, this is certainly worth a small play.