Incline or decline season for the Bengals?
Ramblin Fan IV: The Bengals finished the 2021 season with the 13th-ranked offense, the 18th-ranked defense, and the special teams unit that ranked seventh overall in the NFL. Which areas do you anticipate improving? Which areas do you expect to see some regression in?
Stripe Hype: The offense should improve, the defense will stay about the same, and the special teams will regress.
On offense, the additions to the offensive line will give Burrow more time to carve up the defenses, which should lead to more points. It will also open up more holes for Joe Mixon in the run game, and he’s probably one of the more underappreciated backs in the NFL. The defense added a lot of reinforcements in the draft, including first-round safety Dax Hill (who looks spectacular so far), second-round CB Cam Taylor-Britt (currently nursing a core muscle injury), third-round DL Zach Carter (who can play 3T and 5T), and seventh-round DE Jeffery Gunter.
Reinforcements are coming
They also get back last year’s third-rounder, DE Joseph Ossai, who absolutely tore up the preseason but suffered a season-ending injury before Week One. You need to constantly infuse talent on defense just to maintain the status quo, and they’ve done that.
On special teams, it looks like longtime punter Kevin Huber could be let go in favor of second-year punter Drue Chrisman. Chrisman has the stronger leg but is not as accurate as Huber, and Huber has also been reliable as the holder for the FG attempts. That may, in turn, have an effect on Evan “Money Mac” McPherson.
The kick and punt return jobs are up for grabs, too, although all of the beat writers seem to think second-year RB Chris Evans will be the primary kick returner. Undrafted free agent Kwamie Lassiter is the fan favorite for the punt return job, but he may not even make the team. Those jobs could very well come down to how those players perform against the Rams this weekend.