After reaching the Super Bowl for the first time in 34 years, Bengals fans gathered to welcome their team home as they returned from Los Angeles. Hundreds of fans lined up in front of Paul Brown Stadium to greet players as they arrived off the team buses.
Although they fell short to the Rams 23-20 , the Bengals pieced together a miraculous season. After finishing last in the AFC North in 2021, the Bengals honed in on the rebuilding process this off-season.
The addition of former Saint Trey Hendrickson provided Cincinnati with a much-needed dynamic pass-rusher. Hendrickson’s impact was immediate, shattering the Bengals single-season sack record and making his first Pro Bowl.
The Bengals front office made it a priority to upgrade their defensive backfield in the recent off-season. Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton proved to be quite versatile and were formidable in run support. Pro Football Focus rated Hilton as the leagues fourth best slot-corner prior to the 2021 season. Hilton lived up to the high-ranking by excelling in a variety of zone coverages while also demonstrating his polished man coverage skills on larger tight-ends. Awuzie often found his way onto the PFF’s top-five cornerback rankings throughout the season. The former Cowboy hauled in a crucial interception during the recent Super Bowl.
The Bengals reunited 2020 National Champions Jamarr Chase and Joe Burrow after selecting Chase in the 2021 draft. Chase’s 1455 yards was a Bengals single-season record, and his 266-yard performance against the Chiefs was a single-game rookie record. Chase was a vital addition to a dynamic receiving core that already included former second-round picks Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.
Future Plans for the Bengals
Despite being sacked a Super-Bowl record seven times, quarterback Joe Burrow assisted in keeping the game tight until the end. Burrow threw for 263 yards and a touchdown on the games biggest stage. Although the Bengals have attempted to address the weakness that lie within their offensive line, the moves have not been effective. The Bengals offensive line gave up 70 sacks this season, the third-highest total in league history.
The former Heisman Winner played in just 10 games his rookie season after tearing his ACL and MCL. Burrow rebounded in 2021, leading the NFL in completion percentage and was named the leagues Comeback Player Of The Year. While Burrow’s return impressed many, he is at risk being sacked 70 times just one year after a severe knee injury. In the future, Cincinnati may dedicate a significant portion of their budget to acquiring an experienced lineman.
Came Up Short
Although the Bengals fell short in Sunday’s Super Bowl, the team is young and under-paid roster provides hope for success in the coming years. With improvements to the offensive line, the Bengals are in position to be cement themselves as an AFC power-house.