September in the Bluegrass is beautiful. Fall decorations are popping up all over the place, the temperature is slowly starting to dip down into the 70s, and hoodies are soon to be pulled off coat hangers. It’s a recipe for a good time, but we mustn’t forget what many identify as the main ingredient: football. And fortunately, we’ll get a healthy dose of it this autumn. Per usual, KSR will keep you up to speed on news surrounding your Wildcats and local high school teams, but this year we’re also going to be adding something new: NFL coverage, specifically that of the Cincinnati Bengals.
For introductions sake, I’m Ty Schadt. You might recognize my name from some of the fantasy football analysis I’ve provided on the site this offseason, or maybe some of the feature stories I’ve written on UK athletes.
Here’s some more background: After 22 years of Bengals fandom, I’ve seen a lot. From Carson Palmer’s 2005 ACL tear to Andy Dalton’s 2015 broken thumb. From Chad Ochocinco and TJ Houshmandzadeh to AJ Green and Tyler Boyd. I’ve shed tears after playoff implosions, strained vocal cords after heartbreaking defeats, and pounded coffee tables after interceptions. In 2018, I bought nosebleed season tickets and made the trek up I-75 every weekend, only to watch the team drop seven of their last eight games. Last year, I purchased NFL Sunday Ticket only to watch the Bengals lose 14 games and secure the first overall pick.
But despite everything, all the trials and tribulation the Bengals have put me through, let me tell you something: I believe in this team and now is the perfect time to jump on board. The franchise made major strides to rebrand itself and build a competitive roster this offseason, and I can’t wait to share my observations and analysis with you as we experience this unique season together.
I’ll be bringing you two Bengals posts a week: a column that recaps weekly news around the team and previews their upcoming matchup and game recaps after each matchup. You’ll get all my thoughts and observations from what will be the strangest NFL season ever.
This post is going to recap the Bengals busy offseason and will serve as my attempt to convince you the Bengals are worth checking out this year. Let’s get into it.
Five Things from the Offseason
1. Joe Burrow
The biggest thing Cincinnati did this offseason was draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the top pick in the draft. The move signifies the start of a new era in Cincinnati, and gives the team its most marketable player since Ochocinco. Andy Dalton is gone, and Burrow entered training camp the unquestioned starter. He’s seemed to establish great chemistry with receivers like Tyler Boyd and Auden Tate during camp and has said all the right things in his press conferences.
Aside from the way he will elevate the team on the field, he brings an image to the team that it’s lacked for many years. There’s a lot of hype around Burrow in Cincinnati, and rightfully so. It’s clear the team has already taken to him as a leader. Last weekend, the Bengals gathered and marched to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and read a statement written by center Trey Hopkins. Hopkins read the first part and Burrow, who was asked by his teammates to do so, read the second.
With the shortened offseason and lack of preseason games, this year ought to be a challenging one for rookie QBs. Time will tell, but it’s exciting to have a fresh face under center in Cincy. Plus, this picture is just awesome.
2. Free Agency Splash
The Bengals made a big splash in free agency this year when they shelled out some major contracts to several defensive cornerstones. Defensive tackle DJ Reader signed for 4-years and $53 million, cornerback Trae Waynes inked a 3-year, $42 million deal, and safety Vonn Bell came aboard on a 3-year $18 million deal. Since, Waynes has endured a pectoral injury that will sideline him for a good portion of the season, but the defense is still in a much better position to succeed than it was last year when it finished near the bottom in league rankings.
3. AJ Green’s back
The team franchise-tagged star wide receiver AJ Green, ensuring he will play this season in stripes and earn a cool $18 million. It’s impossible to overstate his importance to the Bengals. Since 2014, the organization is 7-25-1 without him in the lineup.
Since drafting AJ Green the Bengals have won 58% of their games with him on the field and 25% of their games without him on the field
AJ Green was the Bengals franchise quarterback, despite playing wide receiver
— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) May 11, 2020
4. Jonah Williams is healthy
After missing his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury, 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams is back on the field and will immediately bolster the Bengals offensive line. The former Alabama left tackle will join an offensive line that ranked near the bottom of rankings during last season. His presence won’t be enough to make it one of the best in the NFL, but it will surely help balance out the position group.
Plus, Williams has the approval of Pro Bowler Joe Staley, whom he worked out with this offseason.
This dude put so much diligent work in with me this offseason. Can’t wait to watch him break out. Just work. It pays. https://t.co/7MTo4aiOwe
— Joe Staley (@jstaley74) August 24, 2020
5. Joe Mixon got paid
Earlier this week, running back Joe Mixon signed a 4-year, $48 million extension with the Bengals. It’s an important signing, despite the league’s tendency to devalue the RB position. Aside from his work on the field, which has produced back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, Mixon is an emotional leader of the team. Teamwork and culture are words that head coach Zac Taylor preaches time and time again, and it was the sentiment he echoed in his press conference a few days ago regarding the signing.
As Taylor experienced his first year coaching in the NFL last year, it took him time to feed Mixon the rock. But when he finally did, the running back delivered. From Week 9 through the end of the season, Mixon led the league in rushing attempts and posted four 100+ yard games. It’s not too hard to believe that workload will roll-over into this season.
Names to Know
Logan Wilson, Rookie Linebacker
The rookie out of Wyoming was the first pick of the 3rd round in the 2020 Draft, and the Bengals have high hopes for him. He’s coming into a linebacker unit that was a cellar-dweller in rankings last season and will be expected to contribute immediately. Wilson had a stellar collegiate career, serving three-years as a captain and intercepting 10 passes. Among active FBS players, he was first in total solo tackles (253) and first in career defensive touchdowns (4). His instincts in pass coverage and knack for being around the ball should translate well. You’ll know his name before the season ends.
Darius Phillips, 3rd year Cornerback
A former fifth-round pick out of Western Michigan, Darius Phillips is simply a playmaker. When he’s on the field, good things tend to happen. Last year, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown and recorded four interceptions in limited playing time (109 snaps). He’s another guy who has a nose for the ball and great hands, plus electric athleticism. He enters 2020 in a position to get on the field much more as a result of Trae Waynes’ pectoral injury. It appears Phillips is turning heads at camp and asserting himself as a starter. Keep an eye out for him this season.
Quote of the Offseason
The best of Joe Burrow presser. Does that emotion surprise you? That you aren’t nervous? “Absolutely not. Have you anything else about me being nervous?” pic.twitter.com/p2Hv3fSV0V
— Lindsay Patterson (@LndsPatterson) August 18, 2020
Inject it in my veins.
On the Horizon
A preview of the Bengals Week 1 opener with the Los Angeles Chargers will be up soon. The Bengals are in the process of trimming their roster down to 53 men, which has to be done by 4 p.m. today. They’ve got one more week of practice, which will include a live scrimmage.
It’s right around the corner, and I’m so glad you’re here to watch it unfold. Seasons are always here to teach us, and this one ought to show Bengals fans what they have to look forward to in the years to come.
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