The 2-6-1 Cincinnati Bengals were up by two against the 2-7 Washington Football Team with a little over eleven minutes left in the third quarter. The Bengals were a half of football away from getting their third win of the year, and a big morale boost as well. Then, every single Bengals fan’s worst nightmare occurred.
Joe Burrow hit the ground once again – and immediately clutched his leg – and did not get up. The cart came out, and fans expected the worst. Shortly after, tweet by Burrow all but confirmed his season was done. Monday afternoon revealed he had torn both his ACL and MCL.
To blame the Bengals offensive line, front office, coaching, or anyone is irresponsible. Quarterback injuries are uncommon in general, and contact ACL injuries are even more rare. Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, and Daniel Jones have all been hit or sacked more times than Burrow has this season. But – anyone who has watched a Bengals game this year has had the same thought. Joe Burrow needs protection BADLY.
Even with a porous offensive line, Burrow has shown why he was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. Yet the question remains, why was Burrow in this position in the first place?
Sure – first overall picks are usually in bad situations, but Burrow has absolutely no help up front. What were the Bengals doing this offseason?
The first place to start is on December 22nd, 2019. Week 16 of the 2019 NFL season.
The 1-14 Bengals were traveling to the 3-11 Miami Dolphins. With a little over eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Dolphins were in the driver’s seat, up 28-6 with victory clear in sight. Some Andy Dalton heroics occurred shortly after, and the game ended up going to overtime tied at 35-35, with Dalton throwing four touchdowns in the final eighteen minutes.
Regardless, a Jason Sanders field goal won the game for the Dolphins, and officially clinched the Bengals the number one pick in the NFL draft. The Joe Burrow Bengals jerseys being custom made by fans went from dream, to reality.
With the number one pick practically locked in months before the draft, the next step for the Bengals would be to improve their roster as much as possible for their quarterback of the future.
The offensive line wasn’t a priority, as Dalton had around the league average sacks and QB hits in 2019. Yet, the Bengals cut both their left tackles, Cordy Glenn and Andre Smith, beforethe 2020 season. They also let guard John Miller walk to the Panthers.
They kept their left guard, Michael Jordan, even though the lineman played nothing like the superstar with the same name. Their 2019 center and right tackle, Trey Hopkins and Bobby Hart, also returned – but neither has played well. Hart was moved inside to allow 2019 first round pick, Jonah Williams, to play – who has actually been good.
The Bengals thankfully had draft capital, and a ton of cap space to build up their roster. Yet, what they did to help Burrow transition to the NFL was spend on the other side of the ball.
Free agent defensive tackle DJ Reader was given a $53 million dollar contract over four years. Reader played five games at a subpar level before getting injured, and missing the rest of the 2020 season.
Trae Waynes was given a three year, $42 million dollar contract, but has yet to play.
Vonn Bell was given a three year, $18 million dollar contract, and has played terribly.
They paid free agent left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, then he got injured in September and also has not played. So, with the bulk of the Bengals cap space used on defensive players, it was evident that any offensive additions would need to be done in the draft.
The Bengals would obviously use their first pick on Burrow, and then they surprised many by taking Tee Higgins with their second pick. Higgins has played well, and was a smart choice if you believe another weapon would help Burrow. It’s after this pick the Bengals draft becomes confusing.
With their third pick, the Bengals drafted an inside linebacker, Logan Wilson. Wilson has not been great, and that choice looks worse when you see that guard Damien Lewis went a few picks later, and he has been great.
Then, in the fourth round, Cincinnati took outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, who has been terrible for them with only one start this season. Tackle Saahdiq Charles was taken with the following pick, and while he has not played due to an injury sustained in his first start, you have to wonder if he would have helped more than ADG has.
Entering the fifth round, the Bengals decided to keep the same formula, as they then took edge rusher, Khalid Kareem. Kareem has not played well for the Bengals, and only played following DJ Reader’s injury.
Two picks following Kareem was guard Danny Pinter, who would’ve certainly been an upgrade for this Bengals roster.
Three picks over two days, and the Cincinnati front office decided to just continue acquiring more and more defensive players, as if they hadn’t done the exact same thing in free agency months prior. While these moves do not directly lead to Burrow’s injury – as it was a freak occurrence that could happen to anyone on any play – you have to wonder why the Bengals just ignored their offensive line.
Thankfully for the Bengals, they have a clear shot at the second or third overall pick, and will probably take Oregon’s stud, Penei Sewell, to be their franchise LT for years to come. But until then, Bengals fans can only hope Joe Burrow comes back at 100% – both physically, and mentally.