With it being the offseason, Patrick Judis from Cincy Jungle and I decided to exchange five questions to learn some more about expectations for each other’s team in 2020. My answers to Patrick’s questions will be on Cincy Jungle soon, but below are the five questions I asked him about the Bengals (and a former Brown):
Chris: “The Bengals made Joe Burrow their new franchise quarterback this year. What are your expectations for the first overall pick?”
Patrick: “I would put the over/under for passing touchdowns at 25, which is two shy of Baker Mayfield’s record for rookie quarterbacks. That record was set in only 13 starts, and it seems like Burrow has a real shot at tying or breaking that record. He has shown to have a great understanding of how to properly read defenses and find the open man, and his ability to extend the play and throw accurately on the move changes the entire dynamic of an offense that grew stagnant under Andy Dalton.
The real reason he has shot at these is the return of A.J. Green to go along with Tyler Boyd, a healthy John Ross and rookie Tee Higgins. Not to mention Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard have the ability to be amazing in the passing game as well. It is rare that such an NFL ready quarterback gets paired with this many wide receivers capable of what this unit is.
It is reasonable to expect plenty of highs and lows from Burrow in his rookie season, though.”
Chris: “Besides quarterback, what is the single-greatest area of improvement you see in the Bengals from 2019 to 2020?”
Patrick: “It has to be linebacker. It was clear that under Marvin Lewis, this team struggled to find modern day linebackers. We watched guys like Preston Brown, Nick Vigil and a myriad of other nonathletic linebackers try to navigate today’s NFL. It was overly apparent the past two seasons as they got run off the field by teams like the Chiefs, Saints and 49ers the past two years that this defense wasn’t capable of keeping up with the elite teams.
Cincinnati started upgrading the position last year by drafting Germaine Pratt, but he may be the only linebacker from last season to return. Vigil signed with the Chargers in free agency as the Bengals signed Josh Bynes to be their veteran presence. Then they drafted three really talented young linebackers in Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey. All three of these guys have athleticism for days and have shown to be contributors in defending the passing game as well.
Obviously, there will be some ups and downs given how young these players are, but the complete overhaul of a struggling position that has been terrible for pretty much a decade has to be appreciated.”
Chris: “The Browns signed former Bengals defensive tackle Andrew Billings to be a rotational player this year. Tell us your impression about Billings from his time in Cincinnati.”
Patrick: “I was a pretty big fan of Billings during his time here. He showed some real promise as a space eater, but I think him being let go had more to do with the players behind him on the roster (like Josh Tupuo and Renell Wren) as well as the signing of former-Texan D.J. Reader. Billings is a great guy to come in and force double teams, but he just really needs to work on becoming more dynamic of a pass rusher to take his game to the next level. The other pass rushers and linebackers will really appreciate Billings being around, but unfortunately he hasn’t developed into a player that really sets him apart from the other big defensive tackles who can’t pass rush in the NFL.”
Chris: “What is the Bengals’ greatest position of weakness still?”
Patrick: “This has to be offensive line, hands down. Now, the team is better off than most people are letting on. Much like Green, offensive tackle Jonah Williams will be returning after missing all of 2019 due to injury. This guy was so good that the Bengals were telling Cordy Glenn that he would have to play guard because he was going to be the left tackle.
That still doesn’t really cover up that the unit is largely unchanged from 2019. Cincinnati signed Xavier Su’a-Filo to play right guard, and they drafted Hakeem Adeniji to possibly push at either left guard or right tackle. However, this is a unit that has been bad even before allowing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler to walk in free agency, but it has struggled to really get back on track. There have been moves made like drafting Billy Price, trading for Glenn and drafting Williams, but they haven’t really tried to create a real sense of competition along all positions dating back to Lewis. Players like Cedric Ogbuehi and Bobby Hart were/are able to coast through offseasons without having to worry about their starting roles or roster spots because the team doesn’t bring in competition.
This unit played at a decent level towards the end of 2019, so that is encouraging. It just would’ve been nice to see it get just a little more attention this offseason considering the amount of under performers they are still relying on taking the next step.”
Chris: “After finishing 2-14 last year, what record are you predicting for the Bengals in 2020?”
Patrick: “Even with the extra Wild Card spot, the Bengals are a season or two away from being seriously talked about in playoff contention. I’d say it is reasonable to expect this team to finish with five to seven wins.
Burrow will bring a confidence to this team that they just haven’t had in a very long time. He will also show fans what they have been missing while stuck in Dalton purgatory for the past decade. You can just tell by the way these players have talked about the offseason so far that they are really buying into Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor.
That being said, they are still a very young team. Improvements at quarterback and linebacker were made, but to expect rookies and second-year players to play at a level that would be associated with a winning team is unrealistic. This is a year where these young foundational pieces that Cincinnati has quietly been putting together have a chance to get some real experience with each other and build for the future. This team is really only a year or two away from pushing the top teams of this division. Again, that year is not this one.
I predict a solid six-win season with plenty of close games.”
Thanks again to Patrick for helping provide us a glimpse of where the Bengals stand right now!