The Bengals had a heartbreaking loss to the Chargers in Joe Burrow’s debut. Here are five things learned from week 1.
1. Rookies Make Rookie Mistakes
Before getting critical of Joe Burrow, it is important to note that he did a lot of good in his first career start. He went 23/36 for 193 yards and one interception. Burrow also showed off his wheels with 46 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. It was a good first start in general, especially when taking into account how many good players are on the defensive side of the ball and how bad the Bengals’ offensive line is this season.
He is a rookie though and the mistakes made by young players comes with the territory. Burrow had a fumble on a pass thrown backwards to Mixon, but luckily it squirted out of bounds. When he tried to scramble, which he had to do a lot of on Sunday, he bobbled the ball and almost fumbled. And then in the fourth quarter, on a broken play, he forced a pass and Melvin Ingram intercepted it. His play should incite hope in the fanbase, but Burrow is still far from a finished product.
2. Timeouts Need to be Managed Better
One of the biggest things that needs to be managed in a game is the usage of timeouts. Andy Dalton could often be seen calling timeouts way too early in games, which negatively impacted the team. That is something that should improve with Burrow, but that wasn’t the case in week 1.
In the second half, the Bengals took their last timeout with 6:22 remaining. This meant that when they were trying to mount their comeback drives, they had to do so with the clock running. Ultimately, this led to the team settling for a field goal to tie the game. With Randy Bullock missing the kick, the game went from a possible win to a loss. It is fine to use timeouts wit ha rookie quarterback, but as the season progresses, they need to save them for crunch time.
3. The Offensive Line is Bad Again
Burrow was on the ground a lot, although some of that was because he scrambled. Most of the problem though is that the offensive line is not great. Jonah Williams still has potential at left tackle and Trey Hopkins is solid at center. Everyone else is suspect, which includes Bobby Hart. Hart had a very rough performance.
The Bengals should’ve been looking for a replacement for Hart this offseason, but didn’t. What will make things worse is that Xavier Su’a-Filo went down with an injury. This offensive line is bad enough, so any injuries aren’t going to help. The top priority for the Bengals should be protecting Burrow, as not doing it could result in irrecoverable damage.
4. A.J. Green Looks Good
After not playing at all last season and battling injuries over the last few years, the big question was whether A.J. Green would be ready for the 2020 season. He showed with his play that he is not only healthy, but he still has some good play left in the tank. Green finished the game with five receptions for 51 yards. He was going up against a good secondary that features Chris Harris, Casey Hayward and Desmond King, so the performance was a good start to the 2020 season.
Green playing well is important, this year especially, as he needs to help Burrow develop. He can be relied upon in clutch situations, even if he did push-off, which resulted in an offensive pass interference that resulted with the Bengals trying the field goal to tie the game. Contract talks can wait until after the season, but Green has the potential to be a big help to Burrow this season if he continues to play well.
5. Linebackers are a Much-Improved Group
Last season, one of the weakest points on the team was at linebacker. The Bengals made a concerted effort to improve their linebackers this offseason. Germaine Pratt was kept after showing some flashes of good play as a rookie last season. Josh Bynes was signed as a linebacker who is good in coverage. Akeem Davis-Gaither, Logan Wilson and Markus Bailey were all drafted to help at the position. It looks like the linebackers are much better this season.
Pratt was all over the field with 12 tackles. Bynes had some key plays, which resulted in him finishing the game with eight tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss. Davis-Gaither and Wilson both got their first taste of NFL football and finished the game with three tackles apiece. The group could be a real x-factor this season.
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