CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals are on what they hope is an upward trend of their rebuild.
Quarterback Joe Burrow is in place to lead the franchise for the distant future. Burrow, having gone down with a season-ending injury in 2020, proves what priority number one is for the Bengals: get your young signal-caller protection.
Cincinnati gave up 48 sacks during the 2020 season, which was sixth-most in the entire league. That can’t happen when you have a young quarterback working through the learning curve of being a professional in the NFL.
Free agent guard Joe Thuney should be number one on the Bengals list. Thuney isn’t going to be retained by the Patriots and is set to become possibly the highest paid guard in the NFL. At 28-years old, Thuney still has plenty of football in front of him. Cincinnati can offer an attractive contract and the fact that they have a young, exciting quarterback could be enough to bring in the big time free agent.
Draft a playmaker early
When the Bengals reached on John Ross it was risky and now is proven to be a mistake. With the fifth pick in April’s draft, the Bengals will be in position to add a potentially elite playmaker to pair with Tee Higgins. With the future of AJ Green in question, since he is a free agent to be, the Bengals have to add another playmaker to their young offense.
Jamarr Chase, Kyle Pitts, and Devonta Smith are amongst the best weapons in the upcoming draft and would fit in well with the Bengals. Any of the three would give Joe Burrow another weapon to utilize and help the offense that much more.
Draft more protection upfront
In the NFL having too many offensive linemen would be a good problem to have. Well, the Bengals are nowhere near that. After the first round Cincinnati could potentially grab another quality offensive lineman to help out the club. Wyatt Davis of Ohio State and Walker Little of Stanford both would add quality pieces to the Bengals front five on the offensive side of the ball. The Cincinnati offensive line should look quite a bit different next year.
The franchise is in the hands of Joe Burrow, so you have to keep him upright. Allowing your young quarterback to grow and not worry about being sacked every other play will go a long way for Cincinnat. Entering his second season, Burrow has to receive some help to make him more comfortable.
It’s time to get after the passer
The times of Cincinnati having one of the league’s best defensive lines is in the past. Geno Atkins is older, Carlos Dunlap is gone, and Carl Lawson is a free agent. The Bengals were last in the league in sacks in 2020, which is a terrible spot to be.
Adding a pass rusher in both free agency and the draft is not a bad idea at all. Solomon Thomas and Takkarist McKinley are interesting names on the market that could help out the team with getting after the quarterback. Multiple other defensive ends don’t quite fit the age you want to target when you’re still in a rebuild, or they’re just unlikely to be sought after by the team.
April’s draft will give the team another chance to add a pass rusher. In round two or three Cincinnati could target the likes of Jayson Oweh of Penn State, Carlos Basham Jr. of Wake Forest, or Patrick Jones from Pittsburgh. Any of these players would help the defensive line rotation and improve the defense from a lackluster 2020 campaign.
In 2021, the Bengals can take a positive step with their young quarterback by surrounding him with the pieces to succeed. On the defensive side of the ball the team would improve immediately with pressure off of the edge.
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