The 2020 NFL season was excruciating for the Cincinnati Bengals and its fan base. They see their future quarterback go down with a serious knee injury, their starting running back also dealing with ailing injuries, along with so many other bumps, and bruises sustained on this team. The Bengals finish the season 4-11-1 and were the only team in the NFC North to have a losing record.
But with that being said this is a new year, and the Cincinnati Bengals front office added key pieces to this roster. Some leaders have performed on an NFL stage. They also added some youth to this team to go with the current makeup of this roster. The Bengals can surprise in 2021, and here is why.
Adding a familiar wideout in the draft
The Cincinnati Bengals went into the draft night having ten draft picks, and with these draft picks they acquired some very good football players. With the fifth overall pick, the Bengals took a very talented wideout from LSU in Ja” Marr Chase.
Chase ranks number two in SEC history for receiving touchdowns. In 2019, Chase caught 20 touchdowns from no one other than Joe Burrow his current quarterback with the Bengals. He also ranks number two in SEC history for receiving yards in a season. Yet again with his current quarterback Joe Burrow. Chase was able to haul in 1,780 yards in 2019.
Chase was the 2019 Biletnikoff Award Winner. The Biletnikoff Award is presented every season to the most outstanding receiver. He racked up multiple All-American honors. This was a significant draft pick to go with already very good wideouts Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. This offense, if healthy, could put up some offensive firepower.
Joe Mixon is a good supporting cast member to an offense that will look to throw the football. Mixon ran for 1,137 yards with five rushing touchdowns in 2019. He also caught 35 balls for 287 yards and three touchdowns. If Mixon can put up these numbers in 2021 it would be a good rebound after only playing in six games in 2020.
Ferocity frenzy in free agency on defense
The Bengals looked at the free-agent market along with the draft to bolster their defense. After losing Carlos Dunlap to the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati adds defensive end, Trey Hendrickson, on a four-year $60 million deal. Hendrickson played very well for the Saints, sacking the quarterback 13.5 times. Oh wait, there is more. The Bengals added corner Chidobe Awuzie to a three-year $21.75 million deal. Awuzie is a 26-year-old corner with still a lot of potential left in the tank.
The Bengals also added former Steeler Mike Hilton to a four-year deal worth $24 million. Hilton will provide an upgrade at the cornerback spot, and having played within the AFC North understands the competitiveness within the division.
The Bengals add yet again another corner, and a potential sleeper, Eli Apple. Apple signs for one year $1.2 million. The final noticeable addition on defense is defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi on a one-year $6.2 million deal. Ogunjobi also has experience within the division having been drafted by the Cleveland Browns. He will be a good addition to pairing with running mate D.J. Reader after losing Geno Atkins.
This defense has found a way to build depth, specifically at the cornerback position. Facing teams with high-powered air raids the corners will need to provide good coverage with help over the top from the likes of Vonn Bell, and Jessie Bates III.
Tough schedule in 2021
According to Sportingnews.com, the Cincinnati Bengals are tied for sixth in the strength of schedule. We know the Bengals play in the AFC North which has them squaring off against the likes of the Pittsburg Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Cleveland Browns. Having home, and away games against these tough opponents.
The Bengals are also slated to face off against the NFC North this year which will have them at home against the Minnesota Vikings, on the road against the Chicago Bears, home versus the Green Bay Packers, and away against the Detroit Lions. Sprinkle in games against the AFC West (Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders, and Denver Broncos), and you can see why this team is tied for sixth in the strength of schedule.
With the additions listed above, and the hopes of a healthy return to Joe Burrows, Joe Mixon, and others this team will surprise in 2021. There is a possibility we will see some upsets, and with some confidence, this team could have a successful season. This would motivate the front office along with the fans in Cincinnati.