The Cincinnati Bengals finished 4-11-1 in the 2020 season, which is two more wins than we saw in their 2019 season.
Despite the low amount of wins, this season here is why there is plenty of reason for optimism during the 2021 season.
AN ENCOURAGING SEASON FROM JOE BURROW
After their struggles in 2019, Cincinnati were awarded the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. During the first-ever virtual draft, Cincinnati took one of their own in Joe Burrow, who grew up and went to high school in Ohio.
Burrow came into the organisation with plenty of expectation after winning the National Championship with LSU during his last college season, arguably one of the greatest ever seasons from any single college team.
He certainly impressed and lived up to the billing before a week 11 game against the Washington Football Team saw an ACL injury end his season. Burrow ended the season with 2,688 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
Cincinnati would only win two more games throughout this year, a number that would have been more if Joe Burrow had been healthy all season. However, was this a good thing for the Bengals long term that Burrow missed time throughout the season?
LEARNING FROM THE 2019 49ERS SEASON
The San Francisco 49ers had a promising end to the 2017 season, with Jimmy Garoppolo being traded mid-season and winning all five games he started down the stretch.
Many had the 49ers down as a Super Bowl dark horse during the 2018 offseason but Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury in a Week 3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco would end the season 4-12. They would have the second overall pick in the 2019 draft and they chose defensive end Nick Bosa.
This is not a pick the 49ers would have had if Jimmy G played all season. Bosa had an excellent rookie season, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year as the 49ers reached Super Bowl 54. He was a draft pick that immediately made an impact for the team that took him. Can the Bengals do the same as the 49ers did?
THE 2021 DRAFT AND BUILDING ON PERSONNEL
At time of writing, Cincinnati possesses the fifth overall pick. Three players could help this franchise get back to their glory days of the 1980s where they reached 2 Super Bowls.
These three players are Oregon Ducks offensive tackle Penei Sewell, Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts or wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.
Penei Sewell would offer protection in the offensive line that could help Burrow for many years to come. This will also avoid a similar injury to the one Burrow suffered in 2020. Despite only playing ten games, Burrow was the ninth most sacked quarterback during his rookie season (32). The offensive line position is the biggest need for Cincinnati.
If Sewell isn’t taken by the time Cincinnati’s fifth overall pick arrives, he should be taken. The Miami Dolphins could take Sewell with the third overall pick, which could then mean that the Bengals take an offensive lineman later in the draft. Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase would be the next best options.
Pitts is by far the best tight end in the draft, with 12 touchdowns and 770 receiving yards in 2020 for Florida. He would be a fix for a position that struggled in 2020. Current Bengals tight end Drew Sample recorded only 349 receiving yards and just one touchdown in 2020.
LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase sat out 2020 but had a great 2019 as he and Joe Burrow’s connection was there to see. Chase recorded 20 touchdowns and 1,780 receiving yards with Burrow as his quarterback.
Having both players back together would significantly help this offense with another weapon. Chase would also be a natural replacement for veteran and franchise legend A.J. Green.
Whoever the Bengals choose, they have the chance to surprise a few. They will need to add some defensive help with the Bengals recording the least sacks in the league in 2020. Tee Higgins had a promising rookie season and despite his contract situation, running back Joe Mixon will be a massive option in the run game.
Cincinnati has a reason for hope after a few poor seasons. Burrow will hope to recover well and be the same when he returns from injury. If he does and the Bengals draft well, they could be able to surprise a few in 2021.