2024 NFL Season Preview: Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow

Cincinnati Bengals (Last Year: 9-8)

Season Summary:
The Bengals looked like the best team in the NFL at one point during the season, but things quickly changed when Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending injury. Jake Browning looked good at times, but he obviously couldn’t duplicate what Burrow was capable of in tough matchups.

2024 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Zack Moss, TE Mike Gesicki, OT Trent Brown, DT Sheldon Rankins, S Geno Stone, S Vonn Bell.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Amarius Mims, DT Kris Jenkins, WR Jermaine Burton, NT McKinnley Jackson, TE Erick All, CB Josh Newton. Bengals Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Joe Mixon, WR Tyler Boyd, TE Irv Smith, OT Jonah Williams, DT D.J. Reader, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Nick Scott.

2024 Cincinnati Bengals Offense:
The Bengals began last season slowly because of Joe Burrow’s calf injury, but they picked up steam as the year progressed. By the midway point of the season, the Bengals looked like the best team in the NFL when they destroyed the Bills in a Sunday night affair.

Shortly later, disaster struck. Burrow suffered a wrist injury versus the Ravens on a Thursday night and was lost for the year. Despite a big upset of Jacksonville, the Bengals finished poorly and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Fortunately for the team, Burrow’s wrist is not a long-term issue, so he figures to be 100 percent to start 2024. If so, Cincinnati will be in Super Bowl consideration once again, thanks to the terrific supporting cast.

The receiving corps will continue to be top notch. There was speculation that the Bengals would trade Tee Higgins this offseason, but that did not transpire. With Higgins returning to play across from Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati will once again have two No. 1-caliber receivers at Burrow’s disposal. The third option, Tyler Boyd, is gone, but the Bengals spent a third-round pick on Jermaine Burton. Last year’s rookie, Andrei Iosivas, showed potential as well. There’s also Mike Gesicki, who will offer the sort of athleticism the Bengals have lacked at tight end since the Tyler Eifert days.

Boyd is one of two skill players to leave Cincinnati this offseason. The other is Joe Mixon, who signed with the Texans. However, Mixon showed signs of decline, and fifth-round rookie Chase Brown displayed some potential last year. The Bengals also signed Zack Moss to pair with Brown. Moss was considered a bust from his disappointing stint in Buffalo, but he was terrific for the Colts last season.

Of course, the blocking will dictate how well the Bengals can run, and also keep Burrow safe from another injury. Knowing this, the Bengals targeted an offensive tackle at No. 18 overall. Their top choice, J.C. Latham, was long gone, but their backup option, Amarius Mims, was available. Mims has a lower floor than Latham does, but he has a high ceiling. If Mims can surpass the injury-prone Trent Brown on the depth chart, he could become a terrific bookend for Orlando Brown Jr., who wasn’t as good as advertised last year, but wasn’t poor either.

The Bengals will return all three of their interior blockers. They have two good ones in guard Alex Cappa and center Ted Karras. Assuming one of Brown or Mims pans out, the sole weakness on the offensive line will be guard Cordell Volson, though Volson, as a recent fourth-round pick, has some potential.

2024 Cincinnati Bengals Defense:
Tee Higgins wasn’t the only prominent Bengal demanding a trade this offseason. There’s also Trey Hendrickson, who has threatened retirement if he’s not dealt. If he’s not on the team in 2024, he and his 17.5 sacks from this past season will sorely be missed.

The Bengals, however, have a backup plan. First of all, Sam Hubbard is a solid veteran, though his sack total (6) doesn’t exactly show that. Second, the Bengals used a first-round pick a year ago on Myles Murphy, who will take Hendrickson’s spot in the lineup. Murphy showed some potential as a rookie, recording three sacks in limited playing time.

Cincinnati also added a pair of rookies to their defensive tackle group. Of course, that was necessary, given D.J. Reader’s departure. Two players will be needed to fill Reader’s enormous shoes, and both were chosen on the second day of the draft. Kris Jenkins is a quicker defensive tackle who can provide some pressure in the interior. McKinnley Jackson, conversely, is a monstrous run stuffer. Jenkins and Jackson will compete for playing time next to free agent signing Sheldon Rankins, who can generate a healthy amount of pressure on the quarterback.

Generating less pressure on the quarterback will obviously place more stress on a secondary that has some issues. The Bengals lost Chidobe Awuzie, so they’ll have a liability across from Cam Taylor-Britt, a young player with potential who has been mediocre thus far in his career. D.J. Turner, chosen in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft, is a speedy corner, but he struggled mightily as a rookie. Nickel corner Mike Hilton is the best player Cincinnati has at the position unless Taylor-Britt makes improvements in his third season.

The Bengals also had problems at safety last year, thanks to the departure of Jessie Bates. They reacted by signing a pair of new players to start at the position. Poaching Geno Stone from the Ravens was a nice move, as Stone performed well in 2023. Vonn Bell wasn’t as good for Carolina, but he has played in Cincinnati for several seasons prior to his 2023 hiatus, so he knows the system very well.

While the defensive line and secondary have experienced some changes, the linebacking corps remains intact. Logan Wilson is an exceptional player, while Germaine Pratt is a solid second defender at the position. Both are in the prime of their careers, so there shouldn’t be any regression.

2024 Cincinnati Bengals Schedule and Intangibles:
Cincinnati has developed a strong home-field advantage recently, going 53-30-1 over the past 10 seasons, excluding 2019, which was a lost year.

Evan McPherson has kicked well for the Bengals over the past few years. His 26-of-31 output in 2024 may not seem great until it’s considered that all of his misses came from beyond 50. Even still, McPherson was 7-of-12 from 50-plus.

The Bengals needed a better punter, so they used a sixth-round pick on Brad Robbins last year. Robbins was in the middle of the pack in net punting, and he did not do a good job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

The Bengals obviously have some difficult opponents on the slate because they play in the AFC North. However, they get a last-place schedule, so they’ll have the luxury of battling some weaker foes as well.

2024 Cincinnati Bengals Rookies:
Go here for the Bengals Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2024 Cincinnati Bengals Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2024 Cincinnati Bengals Analysis: The Bengals looked like the Super Bowl favorite during the midway point of the 2023 season. Joe Burrow’s injury changed that, but Burrow will be 100 percent to begin 2024. Burrow will need to play at the top of his game to offset some of the key losses the team suffered on the defensive side of the ball, but given Burrow’s high talent level, that is certainly possible.

Projection: 12-5 (1st in AFC North)

2023 Projection: 14-3. 2023 Actual Result: 9-8.
2022 Projection: 13-4. 2022 Actual Result: 12-4.
2021 Projection: 7-10. 2021 Actual Result: 10-7.
2020 Projection: 4-12. 2020 Actual Result: 4-11-1.
2019 Projection: 4-12. 2019 Actual Result: 2-14.
2018 Projection: 6-10. 2018 Actual Result: 6-10.
2017 Projection: 6-10. 2017 Actual Result: 7-9.
2016 Projection: 10-6. 2016 Actual Result: 6-9-1.

NFL Draft Team Grade:

A Grade

Goals Entering the 2024 NFL Draft: It seems like an annual requirement for the Bengals to improve their offensive line, but that’s the case yet again. Joe Burrow is not protected well, so that must change. The Bengals must also address their secondary, which lost plenty of talent recently, and defensive tackle because of the D.J. Reader departure.

2024 NFL Draft Accomplishments: J.C. Latham was atop Cincinnati’s wishlist, but he was chosen 11 picks earlier. Amarius Mims was the second option, yet the Bengals somehow obtained him at No. 18. Mims was a great bargain at that spot, and he should be able to bolster Burrow’s blocking, which has been insufficient for far too long.

The Bengals were hoping for T’Vondre Sweat in the second round, but he was also plucked off the board before they were on the clock. They went with a smaller defensive tackle instead, obtaining Kris Jenkins. Needing a true nose tackle, they tried McKinnley Jackson at the end of the third. I didn’t like that pick as much, but perhaps Jenkins and Jackson, who specialize in different traits, can team up to duplicate what Reader produced in the past.

Of Cincinnati’s nine picks, eight scored as a “B” or higher, and six earned “A” grades. There were many great values, including fifth-rounder Josh Newton, who should be able to help the pass defense sooner rather than later. There was also Tanner McLachlan, who, along with Erick All, gives Cincinnati a chance to have a play-maker over the middle of the field for the first time since the Tyler Eifert days. And speaking of play-makers, Jermaine Burton was a solid receiver choice in the third frame.

I love what the Bengals did. They addressed positions of need and made improvements to their roster. Burrow should be thrilled for the added protection and weaponry, while defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo will be happy to work with his new toys.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

18. Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia – A Grade

This was Cincinnati’s second-preferred player at this spot, with J.C. Latham being the first. You have to love this pick because Cincinnati is making it to protect Joe Burrow. Mims is an immense talent with a high ceiling, so Burrow has to love this selection.

49. Kris Jenkins, DT, Michigan – A Grade

The Bengals wanted T’Vondre Sweat, but Sweat being chosen ahead of schedule is a blessing in disguise because this is a better player. Kris Jenkins could have easily snuck into the end of the first round, so this is a great value pick that fills a big need.

80. Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama – B Grade

Jermaine Burton has some character concerns, but that never bothered the Bengals. It could be argued that Burton is worth the risk in this spot, especially given that the Bengals need some receivers as replacements for departed players.

97. McKinnley Jackson, NT, Mississippi State – C Grade

The Bengals are making a big reach for McKinnley Jackson here because they missed out on T’Vondre Sweat. I don’t hate this pick because Jackson potentially fills a big need as a run-stuffer, but he’s not a very good player.

115. Erick All, TE, Iowa – B+ Grade

Another Iowa tight end is never a bad thing. The Bengals haven’t had much talent at the position since the Tyler Eifert days, so I’m sure Joe Burrow will like having an improved weapon over the middle of the field.

149. Josh Newton, CB, TCU – A Grade

The Bengals were hoping to land Max Melton earlier, but here’s another cornerback who will help their ailing secondary. Josh Newton was considered a Round 3-4 prospect, so this is a solid value pick for Cincinnati, which also fills a big need.

194. Tanner McLachlan, TE, Arizona – A Grade

This is Cincinnati’s second tight end, but we’ve seen teams have success drafting two tight ends in the past. Tanner McLachlan was very productive at Arizona, and I thought he’d go two rounds earlier than this.

214. Cedric Johnson, DE, Ole Miss – A Grade

I wouldn’t have been too upset had Cedric Johnson gone in the third round. Johnson is an athletic edge player, and he is a tremendous steal by the Bengals, who needed an edge rusher with Trey Hendrickson asking for a trade or threatening retirement.

224. Daijahn Anthony, S, Ole Miss – B Grade

Daijahn Anthony is a limited player as far as size and speed are concerned. He was a quality player at Ole Miss, but he’ll likely be a career backup and a special-teamer.

237. Matt Lee, C, Miami – A Grade

More offensive line help is always welcome in Cincinnati, and I’m sure Joe Burrow is happy about this pick. The Bengals are getting a good value here, as Matt Lee was projected in the middle of Day 3.

Season Summary:
The Bengals looked like the best team in the NFL at one point during the season, but things quickly changed when Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending injury. Jake Browning looked good at times, but he obviously couldn’t duplicate what Burrow was capable of in tough matchups.

Offseason Moves:
  • Texans acquire RB Joe Mixon from Bengals for conditional 2024 7th-round pick

    Team Needs:
    1. Right Tackle: Jonah Williams was really out of place at right tackle. He’s a free agent, but an upgrade was needed anyway. Signed Trent Brown

    2. Guard: More help for an offensive line that must do a better job of protecting Joe Burrow.

    3. Safety: The Bengals were terrible against the pass last year. Safety was a big issue with Jessie Bates gone. Signed Vonn Bell and Geno Stone

    4. Wide Receiver: Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are both set to hit free agency. One should be re-signed. A replacement would obviously need to be found if both leave. Franchised Tee Higgins

    5. Cornerback: Chidobe Awuzie is another important free agent. The Bengals will be very weak at cornerback if they don’t retain him.

    6. Defensive Tackle: The Bengals must replace D.J. Reader if they don’t re-sign him. Signed Sheldon Rankins

    7. Tight End: It’s been a while since the Bengals have had great production at tight end. Signed Mike Gesicki

    8. Punter: Brad Robbins was one of the worst punters in the NFL last year.

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    2024 NFL Free Agent Signings:

    Cincinnati Bengals Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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