There are second year leaps, and there is what Burrow accomplished
in 2022. Expectations were cool for Burrow and the Bengals, as
the former 1st overall pick worked his way back from a devastating
rookie year knee injury. We all know those expectations were shattered
as Burrow and the Bengals rolled all the way to a 3-point loss
in the Super Bowl.
Scarily enough, this offense should have plenty of room to grow
if the protection can improve. Burrow was sacked an unsustainable
51 times last season, and it became a meme by the time the season
ended. That said, the main cogs in this offense are in their mid-20s,
and Burrow gets a healthy offseason to continue to build chemistry
with the receivers. The threat of the Super Bowl hangover exists,
but this is a young team oozing with swag, so the improved teams
in their division and increased expectations should supersede
any residual effects from the tough loss. Burrow easily led the
NFL in yards-per-attempt last season, and while thatís a
stat you canít count on year-to-year, big plays should remain
a large part of the passing game with Chase and Higgins outside.
Short of a rash of injuries to their skill position players (they
arenít deep at receiver especially), Burrow should flirt
with 40 touchdowns and 4,500 yards, numbers that squarely put
him in the top-5 conversation.
Like many guys on this offense, Mixon enjoyed a career year in
2021. His 292 attempts, 1.205 rushing yards, 314 receiving yards,
and 16 total touchdowns were all career bests, even as Mixon ran
behind one of the worst lines in the NFL. Efficiency has been
a major problem for Mixon in his career, but that should change
big time this season, as Cincinnati added three major pieces in
free agency. Mixon should again dominate carries, so the floor
there is safe. The biggest concern comes in the passing game,
as the coaching staff seemed to lack trust in Mixon on 3rd downs
and obvious passing situations, famously culminating in the sloppy
final two plays in the Super Bowl. Samaje Perine and Chis Evans
have both proved to be capable receivers, so a drop in Mixonís
42 receptions wouldnít be a surprise. An improved line, and the
complete absence of stacked boxes should pave the way for Mixon
to pile up numbers on the ground, but a diminished role in the
passing game, and potential touchdown regression push him out
of the top 5, but still in the top-10 in all formats.
The blueprint for this offense has been established, and Perine,
the 6th year vet, looks to retain his role as breather/passing
down back. Perine maxes out as a replacement level player, and
might actually be pushed for playing time by the more explosive
Chis Evans if the coaching staff can build more trust in him.
Perine isnít even an exciting handcuff for Mixon as the
Bengals have never been interested in using him as a 1-1 replacement.
If Mixon were to fall, this would be a full blown 2- or 3-man
committee, and outside of the deepest leagues, itís hard
for me to find a compelling reason to roster anyone in this backfield
other than #28.
Higgins has shown flashes of dominance over his first two seasons
in the NFL, displaying elite body control and hands to go with his
6í4íí frame. He built on his solid rookie season
by improving his reception and yardage totals while playing in two
less games. Rookie teammate JaíMarr Chase stole the headlines
(and rightfully so) last season, but Higgins had some week-winning
games, finished on fire in the run to the Super Bowl, and should
benefit greatly from the increased attention that Chase is sure
to garner in year two. Whatís even more impressive about Higgins
last year was that he did most of his damage with a torn labrum
in his shoulder! Couple his health, with some positive regression
in the scoring department, and a quarterback that isnít afraid
to chuck it, and you have the recipe for a receiver ready to push
into the WR1 conversation without having to pay the premium price
of his teammate.
Coming off a year away from football, and with a great need at
offensive line, some thought the Bengals made a mistake drafting
Chase 6th overall last spring. After setting fire to the record
books, and getting to the Super Bowl in Year 1, itís clear
the Bengals made the right call. Chase dominated from the get-go,
putting up a 5-101-1 line in his first game, and finding the endzone
four times over the seasonís first three weeks. In Week
17 against the Chiefs, he put up one of the best receiving lines
of all time, with 11 receptions, 266 yards and three touchdowns.
The former LSU Tiger was a big play waiting to happen, scoring
13 touchdowns and averaging a gaudy 18.0 yards-per-reception.
He was so good, that frankly, itís going to be extremely
difficult to not only replicate, but also improve upon his rookie
With Higgins and Boyd, there should be a continued split for
target share, and itís hard to see Cinci passing enough
for Chase to see many more than the 128 targets he saw last year.
That ridiculous reception average is also a bet to take a dip,
cutting further into his massive efficiency. Even with an anticipated
regression, Chaseís talent, and quarterback situation make
him one of the first receivers off the board in all formats.
While Chase and Higgins steal the limelight, Boyd is quietly
the glue that keeps the offense chugging. The tough grabs on 3rd
and 8 to keep scoring drives alive donít usually make the
highlights, but the dirty work Boyd does for this offense canít
be understated. Heís been a solid fantasy receiver for several
years now, even though the motley crew of quarterbacks the Bengals
would trot out. Heís averaged better than 7 fantasy points
per game since 2018 and should make for a strong WR3 again this
season, even if there is likely no clear path to an increase in
With C.J. Uzomah and his 63 targets off to New York, Hurst was
brought in this offseason to solidify the position, and give Burrow
another outlet in the passing game. The former 1st round pick
of the Ravens in 2018, Hurst had a solid, if uninspiring two-year
stint in Atlanta before joining the Bengals. Hurst should be a
decent overall upgrade over Uzomah, especially as a blocker, but
there isn’t enough volume siphoned to the tight end position
in this offense to realistically make him more than a TE2 option.