This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns open the 2023 NFL season when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals. To help preview a few topics from the Bengals’ perspective, we reached out to Anthony Cosenza from Cincy Jungle and exchanged five questions with him.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 2.5-point underdogs against the Bengals.
Chris: “Joe Burrow had questions surrounding his health and availability for the start of the season, but it sounds like he is ready-to-go for Week 1. Is there any worry that his calf injury may still limit him in some way? Who is the Bengals’ backup quarterback if that were to happen?”
Anthony: “In terms of injury, no. While it’s an aggravating injury and one that could nag at a quarterback if not treated properly, the Bengals and Burrow have been overly-cautious about it. There are a myriad of reasons why they played it safe, ranging from Burrow’s camp wanting protection because of an impending contract extension, but also because No. 9 hasn’t had a ‘normal offseason’ since he’s entered the league (COVID protocols, knee injury recovery, appendicitis).
It’s been documented that there has been no other damage to the calf, ankle, Achilles or anything surrounding the area to date. Now, that isn’t to say “rust” or a lack of reps doesn’t play a part into things. When you look at last season’s early games, it was apparent that Burrow’s physical comeback was an issue in the first handful of games.
However, recovering from appendicitis and its associated surgery (Burrow’s situation entering the 2022 regular season) and a calf strain are two different things. Additionally, last year, the Bengals were implementing four new starters on the offensive line with limited/no preseason snaps, depending on the position.
The immediate backup would be developmental guy, Jake Browning, who shined for a couple of years at Washington when he had Dante Pettis and John Ross on his Huskies team. Will Grier was also recently added to the practice squad, but the prevailing belief is that the team will MIGHTILY struggle without Burrow in the lineup, despite the ancillary pieces.
That being said, Burrow’s Wednesday presser all but solidified his availability and starting status for Sunday. It’s just a matter of rust and what the effect of a lack of preseason snaps will take.”
Chris: “Which player from the Bengals’ 2023 NFL Draft class figures to have the most immediate impact to begin the season?”
Anthony: “Hard to say. The Bengals are in a dichotomous situation with their youngest crop of rookies. In terms of need, third-round safety Jordan Battle and/or second-round corner DJ Turner come to mind as rotational contributors. On the pus side, with a team that has made two straight deep postseason runs, pressure isn’t overly-high for some of these names to immediately perform. Cincinnati really likes edge defender Joseph Ossai, but an ankle injury might sideline for the first couple of weeks, potentially paving the way for additional snaps for first-round pick, Myles Murphy.
That being said, don’t discount the offensive additions in this year’s class. Wide receivers Charlie Jones (fourth round) and Andrei Iosivas (sixth round) have impressed this preseason, with the latter bringing return ability. Fifth-round pick Chase Brown will vie for the backup running back role and should be a solid goal line back.”
Chris: “What appears to be the biggest change — good or bad — between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bengals?”
Anthony: “I’ll give you both good and bad here. For the bad, you’d have to go to the safety position. Almost everyone figured Jessie Bates would bail in free agency, but Vonn Bell, too? While there were (few) limitations between these two, the Bengals are losing a ton of leadership and production on the table. A total of 19 interceptions, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries between the two as Bengals are missing with the simultaneous departure of those two.
In terms of change for the better, the Bengals continue to upgrade their offensive line. One move (Orlando Brown, Jr.) may have been two upgrades at once, with Jonah Williams bouncing out to right tackle. Regardless, none of the starting offensive linemen are in their posts, with Williams being the lone holdover of any kind in that unit. While some may balk at the notion, it’s an overall positive for the Bengals’ offense.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Anthony: “I’ll give you a few: First is rookie wide receiver and kick returner, Charlie Jones. He was electric as a return man in college, but could be hindered because of a labrum injury.
Another is running back Trayveon Williams, who is trying to prove himself as a viable replacement for Samaje Perine. Williams has extremely limited (albeit productive) offensive snaps and has returned kicks on occasion.
Lastly, look for an impact on defense by reserve three-tech, Zachary Carter. He was drafted as a hybrid edge/interior guy, but has bulked up by 20 pounds in an effort to commit to the interior and is aiming to be that Larry Ogunjobi replacement. He’s a rotational guy, but the commitment to his new role could maximize the snaps he’s given.”
Chris: “The Bengals are early favorites to beat the Browns on Sunday (Bengals -2.5 as of this question, per DraftKings Sportsbook). Who would you pick against the spread?”
Anthony: “I hate Week 1 games—especially divisional clashes. The initial week almost always has anomalies and teams winning games they shouldn’t, but this one is more or less a coin-flip.
Last year, Cincinnati hosted the Steelers in Week 1 and it took five turnovers and an injury to Cincinnati’s long snapper to give Pittsburgh the five quarter overtime win. The Bengals are vulnerable, but weird scenarios play their part.
That being said, I’ve essentially had the Bengals splitting the division with a win and a loss apiece to each team this year. While I think the Bengals could and should win this game, I think the Browns are talented and recent history points to trouble. The DK spread of 2.5 is low, pointing to a close game, but I foresee this being a field goal win by either team—and, if it’s the Bengals with this line, it could be a heartbreaker.”
Thanks again to Anthony for taking the time to answer my questions.