Coming off a Super Bowl appearance last season, the Bengals were thought to be a contender again in 2022. However, sitting at 4-4 through Week 8, they currently have more questions than answers.
So often in sports, the healthiest team standing is typically the one that prevails. And so far, for the Bengals, that hasn’t been the case. Nor do they look like they’ll be the last ones standing when it’s all said and done.
After starting the season 0-2, the Bengals stormed back to win four out of their next five. Joe Burrow finally started looking like himself again, and as football fans, we started believing the reigning AFC champs had finally turned it around.
Then, Monday night happened.
Cincinnati looked miserable in its 32-13 loss against a 2-5 Browns team, the team’s second loss against a team below .500 this season. However, the Bengals only trail the AFC North-leading Ravens by one game, but injuries — specifically to star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase — and a poor offensive line remain huge concerns for a team that appears to be derailed off its tracks.
The question is: Can Cincinnati recover? Boardroom explores.
Injuries & Salaries
Adding insult to injury during the Monday Night Football meltdown, top cornerback Chidobe Awuzie suffered a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. They desperately need to fill this void, though the trade market for corners isn’t overly appealing.
To illustrate how good Awuzie has been for Cincinnati this season, consider the following: He was targeted 43 times and allowed just 18 catches for 219 yards and zero touchdowns. According to PFF, he was the 19th-best cover corner in the NFL prior to Monday night.
Add him to the list of injuries:
- WR Ja’Marr Chase: $825,000
- WR Stanley Morgan: $965,000
- *TE Drew Sample: $1.2 million
- T Jackson Carman: $998,634
- *DT D.J. Reader: $9 million
- DT Josh Tupou: $1.1 million
- CB Eli Apple: $1.9 million
- CB Awuzie: $5.3 million
* Indicates player on Injured Reserve cap.
Bundle all of these players together, and that’s 14.3% of the team’s cap out for an extended period of time.
And while perhaps not money-wise, the biggest blow outside of Awuzie has been to Chase. The second-year wideout built upon what was an impressive rookie campaign through the first seven games of 2022 to the tune of 605 yards and six touchdowns. Prior to his hip injury that is reported to sideline him for 4-6 weeks, Chase was coming off back-to-back 130-yard, two-touchdown outings.
Joe B and the O-Line
Burrow hasn’t been bad this season. He leads the league in pass yards (2,329) and is third in touchdowns (17) and completions (211). But once again, it comes down to the big uglies protecting him.
After the first two weeks, he’d been sacked 13 times, which was then-tied for the most sacks taken by any QB through two games over the past 20 seasons. Since then, there’s been a slight improvement, but not nearly enough. He’s been sacked a total of 29 times in 2022, the second-most in the NFL after Justin Fields (31).
The Bengals added four new offensive linemen — RT La’el Collins ($4.6M), G Alex Cappa ($6.8M), and C Ted Karras ($5M) — and allocated $29.9 million (14.1% of their total cap) to protect their star quarterback this offseason. Simply put: It has not worked.
Cincinnati has two winnable games coming up against Carolina and Pittsburgh, with a bye week in between. But if the team can’t get healthy and the offensive line doesn’t learn to protect Burrow, things may not get much better. This is evident by its Super Bowl odds jumping from +2100 in the preseason to +2800 eight weeks in.
All that said, the Bengals aren’t done. Far from it, in fact. But they need to weather the storm without their top CB and top WR, which is easier said than done.
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