Bengals must stay healthy to compete in rugged AFC North
CINCINNATI BENGALS (4-11-1)
New faces: WR Ja’Marr Chase, OL Riley Reiff, DL Trey Hendrickson, DT Larry Ogunjobi, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Mike Hilton, OT Jackson Carman, DE Joseph Ossai.
Key losses: WR A.J. Green, RB Giovani Bernard, DL Geno Atkins, K Randy Bullock, OL B.J. Finney, DL Carl Lawson, CB William Jackson, LB Josh Bynes, CB LeShaun Sims.
Strengths: Quarterback Joe Burrow is healthy again after a season-ending knee injury in 2020. Now he’s got Chase, his former LSU teammate and the fifth overall pick in the draft, as another target. No. 1 running back Joe Mixon is also healthy again and could help open up the offense for Burrow. Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III emerged as a formidable tandem at safety.
Weaknesses: The offensive line, one of the worst in the NFL last season, was upgraded with the addition of Reiff and the return of O-line coach Frank Pollack, but could still be an issue. Linebackers and depth at running back also are questions.
Camp Development: Burrow, center Trey Hopkins, Mixon and DT D.J. Reader are moving well after returning from injuries. Chase, who sat out the 2020 college season, has struggled with dropped passes through training camp. CB Trae Waynes, who missed all of last season with a torn pectoral, suffered a hamstring injury and is day to day. Rookie DE Joseph Ossai, an edge-rushing specialist, will miss the season with a knee injury.
Fantasy Player To Watch: A safe bet is Burrow, who put up some gaudy passing numbers before his season-ending injury in 2020. The WR trio of Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins will give him lots of targets, and pass protection should be improved.
FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 120-1. Over/under wins: 6.5.
Expectations: Bengals coach Zac Taylor has the support of ownership — for now — but with a 6-25-1 record in his first two seasons, there is more pressure than ever to produce. Most of the pieces are in place for the Bengals to be better, but contending in the rugged AFC North is another matter.
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