CINCINNATI — The Bengals enter Week 3 of the 2020 regular season with an 0-2 record, but there's plenty of optimism surrounding the franchise.
Here are five thoughts on the team as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Eagles.
1. They Have Their Guy
Joe Burrow is the real deal. From his leadership and competitiveness, to his athletic ability and accuracy.
We said it all offseason and he's showed it through two games. He's different than Andy Dalton. Even Carson Palmer wasn't nearly this advanced as a rookie.
Burrow is going to make some mistakes, but the 23-year-old is everything the Bengals thought he would be when they selected him with the No. 1 pick in April's NFL Draft.
2. Time to Prove it, Zac
It's time for Bengals head coach Zac Taylor to show he can not only lead this team, but also prove that he's an elite offensive coach in the NFL.
Can he put Burrow in a position to succeed? Asking your rookie to throw 61 times on the road is less than ideal. Burrow had to fight, scratch and claw for every yard. Nothing has been easy for this offense through two weeks.
That's on Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan. There's no reason why they shouldn't be able to get A.J. Green, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, John Ross and others in space. Making life easier on the rookie quarterback should open things up for an offense that has the potential to put up 30+ points every week.
3. They Are Who We Thought They Were
The Bengals offensive line was the biggest concern coming into the season. The coaching staff voiced optimism, but Burrow has been pressured 52 times in two games according to Pro Football Focus.
Bobby Hart wasn't as bad on Thursday night, but the guard play was horrendous. Fred Johnson struggled in his first start at right guard. Michael Jordan took a major step back after a promising Week 1 performance against the Chargers.
Jonah Williams looks like he can be an anchor on the left side of the line and Trey Hopkins is as steady as they come, but the other three spots are questionable at best.
It's up to Taylor and Callahan to scheme around it. Find a way to get the ball to the Bengals' weapons quickly so Burrow doesn't take so many hits.
"You don’t like to see that," Taylor said when about the number of hits his rookie quarterback is taking. "Of course we want Joe Mixon and Gio (Bernard) to be a big part of this thing, and we’ve got to do a better job putting ourselves in position to play with the lead so that we can do what Cleveland did and run the ball and just rely on those backs and take shots when they’re there with receivers. That’s the most effective way to play football."
4. Keep Feeding Green
There's been plenty of A.J. Green slander on social media over the past few days. Some think the Bengals should trade him, while others believe Auden Tate is a better option.
He did have three receptions for 29 yards on 13 targets against the Browns. He struggled to get into a rhythm with Burrow. If you want to throw dirt on him go ahead, but I'm not even going to the store to buy a shovel.
Green could very easily have three touchdown receptions in the first two games. Burrow missed him on a deep ball in the third quarter of their loss against the Chargers. The officials bailed out Los Angeles by calling pass interference on the potential game-winning touchdown that Green caught at the end of that game. And Browns safety Karl Joseph forced Green to attempt an acrobatic one-handed catch in the back of the end zone on Thursday night. If he had two hands, there's no doubt that he would make that catch.
Green was always going to be rusty after not playing in a game for 20 months. He didn't get many reps with Burrow in training camp. Give him another game or two to build a rapport with his rookie quarterback.
The only concern I have about Green is health. He's healthy. Give him a few more weeks and you'll see the same dominant player you've watched for the past decade.
5. Tate, Ross and the other Wide Receivers
Tate should be frustrated after being a healthy scratch on Thursday night. It should make him angry.
That doesn't mean Tate or his agent handled it the right way. The Bengals had to cringe when they saw the comments his agent made to CBS Sports and The Athletic.
It wasn't long ago that second-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd was a healthy scratch for the Bengals. He was probably just as angry. Did his agent go public with his frustration?
Less than two years later, Boyd signed a four-year, $43 million extension with the Bengals.
Tate has to respond the right way. Obviously he wants to play. He can still contribute this season, but this idea that he's so much better than the Bengals' other options is.... wrong.
Mike Thomas has been great this year. He played well in training camp and build a great rapport with Joe Burrow.
Some will say Ross needs to be benched, but Tate is playing behind Green and Thomas. When Ross isn't in the game, that usually means second-round rookie Tee Higgins is out there.
No one wants Higgins to be inactive.
Tate was the odd man out for one week and he and/or his agent threw a temper tantrum. That can't happen.
A lot of this falls on Taylor. He needs to find a way to get these guys involved early and often. There's no reason why they shouldn't have been able to create more big plays in the passing game on Thursday night.
Things are a bit off chemistry wise. That needs to be fixed against the Eagles.
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