With Burrow, Bengals look to improve on 2019 fiasco

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, file photo, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow holds the trophy as safety Grant Delpit looks on after LSU defeated Clemson 42-25 in the NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game, in New Orleans. Imagine if a pandemic had shortened or wiped out that last, golden season for Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy and led LSU to the national championship. Would he still have emerged as the first overall NFL draft pick? (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

By The Associated Press undefined


New faces: QB Joe Burrow, WR Tee Higgins, G Xavier Su’a-Filo, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander, CB LeShaun Sims, S Vonn Bell, LB Josh Bynes, DT D.J. Reader.

Key losses: QB Andy Dalton, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Darqueze Dennard, TE Tyler Eifert, LT Cordy Glenn, LB Nick Vigil, CB B.W. Webb, G John MIller.

Strengths: Adding Higgins in second round of draft and keeping A.J. Green with franchise tag gives Bengals deep receiving corps in Burrow’s first season. Green missed all last season with ankle injury. Higgins is similar to Green in style. Bengals return Tyler Boyd, who had 90 catches for 1,046 last season, and running backs Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, who can catch ball out of backfield. 2017 first-round pick John Ross III enters fourth season of injury-sidetracked career.

Weaknesses: Offensive line has struggled last few years and was focus in offseason, with Glenn and Miller released. Last year’s first-round pick Jonah Williams moves in at left tackle after missing rookie season with shoulder injury, and Su’a-Filo takes over at guard. How well new players fit will be key to offense breaking in rookie quarterback.

Pandemic Development: Nobody was more affected by loss of practice time than Burrow, Heisman Trophy winner from LSU who takes over right away. Bengals worked with him on videoconferencing as much as possible, but he’ll have limited practice time and no preseason game experience heading into season opener.

Fantasy Player To Watch: Mixon will be focus of offense trying to take burden off rookie quarterback. He’s topped 1,000 yards rushing each of last two seasons while running behind line that struggled to open holes, and he added nearly 300 yards receiving each year. He’ll get ball often, especially at outset of season as Burrow settles in.

Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl: 200-1. Over/under wins: 5 1/2.

Expectations: After historically bad first season under coach Zac Taylor — only second team in club history to go 2-14 — Bengals went out of character and splurged in free agency to overhaul horrid defense. They also brought in new face for franchise in Burrow, coming off one of best passing performances in NCAA history. They haven’t won playoff game since 1990 season, fifth-longest streak of futility in NFL history, and they played in half-empty stadium last season as fans gave up. Addition of Burrow makes them relevant again, though there are still significant questions about Taylor’s coaching ability and organization’s ability to finally get it right after so much losing.


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