The Cincinnati Bengals are entering week 1 as they prepare to take on the Los Angeles Chargers. With every game of the season, there will be things to watch and focus on. Here are five things to watch for in week 1.
1. Joe Burrow’s Debut
It is a new era in Cincinnati with Joe Burrow taking over the reins of the offense. After a stellar season at LSU, Burrow was selected first overall by the Bengals in the 2020 NFL Draft. He threw for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and six interceptions on 76.3 percent completion as he led LSU to a National Championship.
His first start with the Bengals won’t be easy. The Chargers have a great defensive line that can generate pressure. Between Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Burrow will have to show he can handle the pressure, something he excelled at in college. While they will be without Derwin James, the Chargers also have a stout secondary. It won’t be an easy game for Burrow, but fans will get a chance to see what he is made of at the NFL level.
2. A.J. Green‘s Return
Since the start of the 2018 season, A.J. Green has played nine games. He has battled injuries, but he is finally set to return to the field. In those nine games in 2018, Green still showed he was a quality receiver with 46 receptions for 694 yards and six touchdowns. A lot has changed since then, but Green’s return is something Bengals fans should be anxious to see.
Burrow’s play will effect Green’s, but specifically, it will be important to see if he can still separate and make his acrobatic catches that he has become famous for in his career. If he is healthy and can regain a lot of his form, the Bengals offense will have plenty of weapons for Burrow to utilize.
3. Jonah Williams’ First Snaps
In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected Jonah Williams with their first pick. The tackle out of Alabama was projected to be one of the best linemen in the rookie class last season, but was sidelined with a shoulder injury last season. He will be thrown into the fire this weekend.
Williams will start at left tackle and will have to try and deal with Bosa and Ingram. It will be a good look at whether he has the potential to be a stalwart at left tackle for the years to come. The rest of the line, other than center Trey Hopkins, hasn’t proven to be great, so Williams’ individual performance will be interesting to watch.
4. Free Agent Signings
The Bengals did something they don’t normally do, which is sign free agents. It looks like the team is committed to build a team around Joe Burrow for the future. Trae Waynes, Vonn Bell, Mackensie Alexander and D.J. Reader were all big signings for the team. Outside of Waynes, who is injured, they will be making their Bengals’ debuts this Sunday.
Reader will get a lot of snaps in the middle of the defensive line and could really help the team’s run defense this year. Alexander will help the secondary, while Bell will be a versatile player, as the team went to more three-safety looks last season. These defensive acquisitions will have to help the defense step their game up if the team wishes to compete.
5. Linebacker Play
Cincinnati has had a sore spot at linebacker for quite some time. They haven’t even come close to having a top player in the league in the position for years. This offseason they acquired several players who will be looking to change the position group around, along with a player who was drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Josh Bynes is a linebacker who specializes in coverage. He’ll have to chase around Austin Ekeler and Hunter Henry this weekend. Germaine Pratt will be going into his second season with the team. He also will have coverage potential, as he is a former safety in college. Akeem Davis-Gaither, Logan Wilson and Markus Bailey are all rookies who will be looking to crack into the lineup for snaps.
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