Nicole (@Browns_Babe) and I discuss the Cincinnati Bengals, both as an individual team as well as how they match up with the Cleveland Browns. Both of us are hoping the Bengals get it together, because they do have some nice pieces in place, but too much needs to go right for it to work.
Joe Burrow has to be at least as good if not better than he was as a rookie while coming off major knee surgery. Tee Higgins needs to play as well as he did last year The Bengals need big contributions from rookie Jamarr Chase. Joe Mixon has to be able to take pressure off of Burrow.
With all of those things needing to work out, it all may come down to a questionable offensive line improving dramatically. Both Nicole and I struggle with the notion that they need Burrow to save the franchise while also not taking an aggressive approach to building the offensive line.
Jonah Williams is not bad, but he's only played 10 games so far. Riley Reiff was a nice signing. Trey Hopkins needs to make a pretty miraculous recovery from an ACL tear he suffered ten weeks after Odell Beckham Jr. suffered his. Quenton Spain needs to play well, which he's capable. Finally, the rookie Jackson Carman needs to step in and be at least reasonable as a rookie guard.
All of these things need to happen while they all stay perfectly. The Pittsburgh Steelers just signed Melvin Ingram to what was already the best front four in the NFL, even if the fourth option was Nicole. Myles Garrett dominated the Bengals last year and the additions of players like Jadeveon Clowney could make them more dangerous. The Baltimore Ravens can send a ton of players on the blitz.
Defensively, they have a superstar in Jessie Bates. Around him, they have the makings of what at least makes for an interesting secondary. The defensive line is stout and long, which could be effective.
Their linebackers, assuming they choose to keep playing three of them, need to improve significantly. Much like the Browns, they have a ton of younger players that need to figure it out. Maybe that happens this year.
Ultimately, the biggest reason to doubt the Bengals is head coach Zac Taylor, who has been everything Hue Jackson was for the Browns. Combine that with an organization that gives them no room for error, it's difficult to see all of the things work out they need in order to just get to seven or eight wins.